Ben Lee

Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work

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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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