Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work

Ben Lee

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Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work Review

by James Christopher Monger

Ben Lee's ninth studio outing pretty much lays out its mission statement in the title. Like 2011's Deeper Into Dream, which drew its inspiration from the Aussie alt-rocker's three years of dream analysis therapy, Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work finds the former Noise Addict frontman once again ditching the familiar architectures of rock & roll, this time for the cosmic adages of worldbeat and folk-infused spiritual awakening. Built around his experiences with the peyote-esque, South American-based psychoactive brew from which the album gets its name and featuring guest vocals from the project’s co-creator Argentinian-Australian actress and musician Jessica Chapnik Kahn, Welcome to the Work establishes early on that the shamanistic ritual drinking of the infusion had a deeply profound effect on Lee, prompting a passionate manifesto on the back jacket in support of its spiritual potential and instructions for planting the biodegradable cover which is embedded with wildflower seeds. Ayahuasca offers up a heady blend of layered, Smile-era Beach Boys melodiousness ("I Am What I Am"), pastoral meditations that border on the downright monastic ("Invocation"), bright and effervescent bursts of Afro-pop ("Song for Samael"), and Flaming Lips-inspired pseudo-Koan anthems (the dizzying, sampled breath-driven "Welcome to the House of Mystical Death"), all of which are peppered with measured, well-traveled new age platitudes like "Good morning, welcome to being here" and "Hear what can’t be heard in the silence." There is a distinctive, drug-induced haze that permeates most of the album, and Lee and Khan approach each piece with a real openness and warmth that's befitting of the newly awakened, but it’s a far more pop-oriented collection than one would suspect considering the source material.

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