Sunday, April 18, 2021

Crossroads of the Soul by Worlds Within Worlds

Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different, one from the other than those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us still each one its own special radiance. 
- Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Art is a veritable transmutation of substance.  By it, substance is spiritualized and physical surroundings dematerialized in order to refract essence, that is, the quality of an original world.  This treatment of substance is indissociable from "style."  
- Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs.

Crossroads of the Soul was our quarantine album project. Worlds Within Worlds comprises six individuals, Tito Rios, Niralee Kamdar, Nishit Gajjar, Sebastian Pulido Vela, Paula Galindo and myself.  The group name reflects the diversity of musical influences contributing to the sound as well as the connecting theme linking the songs: voyaging through space and time, the exploration of higher consciousness.  The music ranges from electronic, ambient, ambient dub, Andean folk, all variously enhanced with Brazilian percussion and samples from around the world.  It is released on the Cloister Recordings label.

1. Before Creation
2. Floating In Space
3. Bardo State
4. Crossroads of the Soul
5. Tiny Speck of Dust
6. Prasad
7. Kaleidoscope
8. The Burden of Illumination
9. Crown of Creation

Produced by Worlds Within Worlds.  Mixed and Mastered by Oz Fritz except Prasad mixed by Tito Rios

Special guests: Laylah Hali lead vocals on Crown of Creation.
                        EJ Gold - vocals on Floating In Space and temple bells on Bardo State
                        Anonymous Mullah - prayer call on Bardo State
                        Crows - on Bardo State
                        Mother whale with calves - on Kaleidoscope

Sample Material: International Free-Zone by Bill Laswell used in Bardo State

You can download the digital album in your favorite format for $7 here on Bandcamp.

All proceeds benefit the Institute for the Development of the Harmonious Human Being (IDHHB)

Crossroads of the Soul is a straight-up, old-school album in the sense that these songs indicate a sequential series that goes somewhere, from Before Creation to the Crown of Creation.  These tracks can be enjoyed individually, in any order; as a whole, it signals an intentional journey outside the boundaries of human experience, an exploration of the bardo space between where we've been and the direction we may be heading.  We even receive a little food along the way, some nourishment in the form of Prasad.

The title track has interesting symbolism and connotations with the archetypal cross at the core.  Legend has it that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and made a pact with the Devil to exchange his soul for fame and fortune as a bluesman.  This crossroads was Highway 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Johnson did find posthumous fame, but not so much fortune as he was poisoned the following year by the jealous husband of one of his mistresses.

Bob Dylan has also found himself a subject of this legend.  Minnesota friends of his at the time say he left Minneapolis as an average Woody Guthrie imitator and came back from New York a mere 6 months later with the talent just starting to unfold that would drive him to become the songwriter of a generation who would eventually receive a Nobel Prize in Literature and get compared to Shakespeare.  What happened, what changed, what transformed?  Dylan jokingly comments in the No Direction Home documentary about speculation that he followed in Robert Johnson's footsteps and made a midnight trip down to the crossroads.

The crossroads indicates a choice-point, a decision that can influence or determine the course of the rest of your life according to those legends.  According to Tibetan Buddhist legend, when the soul voyages in the Bardo following the body's biological demise, it comes across entrances to wombs which can lead to rebirth into another biological lifetime, a reincarnation.  It encounters crossroads between continuing through the Bardo to wherever it may lead, or ending the journey by taking rebirth.

In a completely different respect, yet still relevant to Crossroads of the Soul, we consider the cross as a model for the whole of Creation with the four legs extending infinitely in each of the cardinal directions and, perhaps, a rose at the center.  

The science fiction writer, Phil K Dick, gave an interesting interpretation of the cross:

"The blood and the cross are the highest point of this world (2-3-74).  The tears – 'of the repentant sinner' – turn to agape, as in Tears; the tears has to do with sin and atonement and Christ and the cross.  But all this (sorrow) is a gate to: love (v.Tears!) and love (agape) equals ecstasy; so tears of sorrow – the cross – are converted into the opposite; joy. Through agape, this is the goal and mystery of Christianity, this conversion; utter sorrow (Mitleid) to bliss (agape)."

2-3-74 refers to February and March of 1974, the period when Dick had a series of gnostic mystical visions and experiences. Tears capitalized and in italics refers to his 1974 book Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, set in a future dystopia where the U.S. has become a police state after a Second Civil War.

Gurdjieff begins his epic science fiction opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, with an elaborate, ornate rendition of the sign of the cross. The Qabalistic Cross begins an essential rite in Golden Dawn based magic, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  Aleister Crowley and his group performed this ritual everyday at their Abbey of Thelema in Sicily.

The song, Crossroads of the Soul, begins with a distant rhythmic and melodic guide track that sounds like it might be coming from a broken radio.  You hear the sound of the door to the Crypt at the Basilica du Sacre Couer in Paris opening into the main body of the song, changing the space, the road, led by the warm tone and melody of an Andean flute.  After the first chorus, the distant melodic guide track crosses the path, indicating a choice-point before the solar melody of the flute and accompaniment re-enters to guide the journey on. 

The palette of sounds comes from all over the world, the mix defined an overall architecture of these sonic worlds within worlds.  The shehnaie samples in Bardo State originated from recordings Bill Laswell and I made in Madras, (as it was known at the time) India.  Part of the chorus in Kaleidoscope is sung by Niralee and Nishit in a dialect from India I don't know the name of.  Indian instruments such as tablas and tanpura drones are used in Nishit's compositions.  Brazillian-style latin percussion and trap set gives the beat, rhythm and movement in some songs.  Tito Rios uses some traditional instruments from his Bolivian heritage in his pieces opening another mood and dimension of sound.  Different chambers of world sounds and sensibilities line the hallway of this journey through the album.

Kaleidoscope starts with a primitive beat, something you might imagine hearing at a Santeria ritual - a beat intended to take consciousness somewhere else.  It speaks of the Univocity that Gilles Deleuze promotes and attributes to Spinoza and others.  The vocals are chants; the electronics greatly contribute to an otherworldly atmosphere that feels like being in any number of Phil Dick novels or other science fiction constructs.  The chorus: All is one, only one is sequentially sung in English, Spanish and an Indian dialect to celebrate in song the richness of difference that speaks from the same voice.

The final track, Crown of Creation, suggests magick and mysticism:

Worlds within worlds infinitely expand
And contract themselves in nothingness
Let's find ourselves in nothingness

Let's ride the stars, it's all crystal clear
Every dusk has its dawn
As above so below, as below so above


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