Required listening for the Black Rock Desert
by Lizard Man
Delerium ö Semantic
Dif Juz ö Extractions
Brian Eno ö Apollo
Ozric Tentacles ö Erpland
Delerium. After years of only import availability, Semantic Spaces, their first domestic release, also marks a break
from their ambient/industrial beginnings. This album finally achieves all the
tragically unrealized potential of Enigma's melding of contemporary dance music
with ancient chants. If only Deep Forest, the Orb and William Orbit had enough
talent to make an album like this. For those initially enthralled by the Enigma
album but disappointed by the tenth listening, Semantic Spaces mixes Tibetan monks, Hare Krishna chants, reggae
backbeats, tribal voices, birdsongs, thunderstorms and the obligatory Gregorian
chanting with a densely woven soundscape of synthetic percussion, ambience,
trance beats, and a relentless bass that never fails to get people moving. A
far cry from the 140 bpm techno we've been assaulted with for the last few
years, Delerium slows it down to a hypnotic trance pace and throws in enough
variation, rhythm and melodic structure that after two years of playing it on
an almost weekly basis, I'm still hearing new stuff in this. Everybody I've
ever played it for loves it. Grab a copy while it's still available.
know if the Dif Juz (pronounced "diffuse") album is still available.
It was released on 4AD in 1987 and was produced by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau
Twins. Entirely instrumental except for one track, which features a guest vocal
by Elisabeth Fraser, this melding of ethereal electric guitar with avant-garde
jazz soars, swoops, glides, and occasionally dives to hit its target. The
softer compositions resonate with understated power, while the harder pieces
maintain an atmospheric quality. The most perfect music imaginable for driving
across the playa.
Apollo was the album that defined the
Ambient genre over a decade before it caught on. Commissioned as the soundtrack
for a documentary on the moon missions, Apollo was meant to convey the feelings
of weightlessness, isolation, and poetic introspection experienced by the
Apollo astronauts on their way to the moon. And it does. If you ever get the
chance to see the movie, For All Mankind,
on the big screen, do it. It was double-featured with Koyaanisqatsi for a while, but seems to have drifted into
obscurity--a shame, especially for a movie composed entirely of stock footage
shot by actual astronauts between Earth and the Moon.
Tentacles are the '90s answer to progressive rock. Termed neo-progressive, the
purely instrumental Ozrics make the music that the 1970s progressive dinosaurs
may have made if, at their peak, they had ditched the grandiose and pretentious
ways of Jon Anderson and Robert Fripp, and instead had thrown in samples of
spaceships, alien voices, laser guns and bubble machines, then spiced with a
multi-ethnic concoction of reggae, raga, Chinese, Japanese and Indian musics
and a variety of instruments from around the world. Very tasty. Erpland is an excellent starting point,
but all twelve of their albums blend well with the expansiveness of the playa.
list is influenced by my personal take on the Black Rock Desert and the Burning
Man festival. As the Man is an abstract figure, to which any individual is free
to associate their own meanings, my music picks are predominantly instrumental,
with no words or lyrics pinning them down to a singular interpretation. These
albums would make a good soundtrack for whatever is going on on the playa. Just
as people bring their own instruments, both acoustic and electric, to the
playa, these albums feature a mixing of natural and synthetic instrumentation.
And as we continue to develop our own neo-tribal society, cultural influences
from all over the world creep into our social fabric. This is reflected in the
combination of modern and tribal, Western and Third World musical structures.
While our encampment comprises a swirling maelstrom of bizarre activity, the
desert itself is magnificent, powerful and serene. The combination of ambient
with expansive and powerful music attempts to reflect this. And finally, all of
the music on this list is imbued with psychedelic and psychoactive qualities,
the better to resonate with those who enjoy experiencing the desert in an
enhanced state--but with enough traditional musical proficiency to entertain
those who do not. I recommend playing this music in your car, either on the
playa or on your way there, as well as in your encampment, if you so choose.