The Psychic Nature of Being

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It's not often that you hear something that actually sounds new and different, but Robert Lowe's Lichens project does just that. Using his voice and a delay, he sets up elaborate soundscapes (similar to Frippertronics), then plays acoustic guitar on top that evokes outsider folkies like John Fahey and Robbie Basho. Neither approach is new, but in combination the effect is startling. "Vocals" or "voice" is a bit of a misnomer here: no words are uttered; the voice is simply a tone-generating device used to set up a series of drones that interact microtonally, creating additional dissonances and sounds. The pieces unfold slowly, allowing the loops to set a mood until the guitar enters. However, the loops are much more than a mere backdrop for the guitar; they're at least as integral to the overall sound and perhaps more so. These are one-take, no-overdub improvisations, but the elegant guitar playing is anything but noodling. There are melodies and recurring motifs that sound much more like compositions than improvisations. Lowe also brings surprising variety to the formula, utilizing melodic vocal fragments (as opposed to straight drones) in the soundscape on "Shoreline Scoring" and shifting gears a bit on "You Are Excrement, You Can Turn Yourself into Gold" by adding a bit of delay to the guitar for the final movement while the vocals fade out. The Psychic Nature of Being is an odd combination of moody and relaxing, but is ultimately a very rewarding listen.

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