Tool's Ænima, 20 Years On - A Personal Recollection

Tool Aenima

Transformation. This is the word that best sums up the feeling of my personal encounter with Tool's Ænima , originally released on vinyl on September 17, 1996. The album sits at the chronological fulcrum on which my life in the 1990s pivots, from dark days to brighter. Whether by coincidence in time or as the root cause of change I cannot say; nevertheless the album now has a catalytic feel to it when I reminisce on decades past.

Tool's previous album, Undertow (1993), sadly provides some of the soundtrack to the dark days. Living in a share house with surfer friends, on a visit to a record store I helpfully suggested the album to a housemate looking for new music. "I've heard good things about this one”, I remarked, pointing it out. Months later, working midnight shifts and trying to sleep during the day while 'Prison Sex' was belting out in the room beside at 100dB, I had developed a certain hate for Tool's music.

The emptiness of the soul at 11pm, stumbling into a subordination-signifying uniform, as others disappear to their beds for the night, is difficult to describe. A miasma of anger, fatigue and hopelessness permeated the air, and Undertow was - for me - the distorted, grinding noise of those emotions. "This is necessary. Life feeds on life, feeds on life, feeds on life..."

By '96, I had moved house, but negativity lingered. And then, the pivot - springing up through multiple events in different aspects of my life. I am given a managerial job with more sensible hours. On a work-related tour of a Coke factory, I spot a pretty girl who worked for the same company as me. Nothing happens, but the moment lingers. A friend's house is burgled; he claims insurance on his treasured CD collection, but later realises that one CD he had repurchased with the payout had not in fact been stolen. He offers me the spare...Tool's Ænima .

Given my history with the band's music, it's surprising to me now that I even played the CD. Perhaps it was the air-play that 'Stinkfist' was getting on TripleJ; a kind of updated 'Sober', sharing a hypnotic deep bass pulse, but seemingly different in tone. Less angry, more introspective. "Something kind of sad about, the way that things have come to be...desensitised to everything, what became of subtlety".

That's not to say there wasn't anger on the album. "I've got some advice for you little buddy!" And so it wasn't love at first sight, but rather a journey into the music, falling through cracks in the seemingly brutalist architecture of the album. To find it was all a facade. Thus it was ever so; the best albums often turn out to be the ones you have to work your way into.

The genius bass riff of '46&2'. The hypnotic percussion at the beginning of ’Eulogy'. The Bill Hicks' monologue over the heart-beat kick drum that initiates 'Third Eye'. Gateway drugs to the rest of each song, pulling me in for repeat listens. Head cocked in fascination at every newly discovered treasure: Danny Carey's drum solo four and a half minutes into '46&2'; Justin Chancellor's bass rolling in like waves beneath Adam Jones' slide guitar in 'Aenema'; Maynard's lyrics touching deeper than expected. "Rest your trigger on my finger."

Poly-rhythms between vocals, guitars and drums almost seven minutes into 'Eulogy'. The dynamics from whisper to roar across 'Third Eye'. The more I listened, the more I heard, the more I felt. Agape at the craftmanship, from individual musicianship and lyricism, to the overall work of art created by those individuals as the single entity of Tool. The lyrics, the music, seeping deep into your bones. Rearranging your mind, re-aligning your soul. "Feel the metamorphosis".

It was, in actuality, *too* good. There was a Luciferian smell about the whole thing; Robert Johnson recently returned from a visit to the crossroads. Not helped by the liner notes discussing Ritual Magik, and a disc emblazoned with a sigil and the name of Asteroth, duke of hell itself.

Those same liner notes - a collage of thoughts jumping from drug effects to Leary and magik and belief - have cold water to pour as well however. "No true ritual magician has ever sacrificed life, drank goat's blood, or taken part in any other stupid urban legend ritual". Rather, "beliefs are dangerous...allow the mind to stop functioning", and magik is about "activating parts of the mind we might normally never use". Crumbs thrown at least to explain the magik being spun off that disc into my mind.

And yet...those themes of transformation that permeate the album, from the very first line you hear (“Something has to change”) and the lyrics of '46&2' ("Change is coming, now is my time.") and 'Third Eye' ("Prying open my third eye”), to the liner notes mention of Leary's Futants, start seeping out into the real world. I get a better job with regular hours. That cute girl I saw at the Coke factory is transferred to my location; the flirting begins. She will become my wife, now of 16 years. Through her, I make wonderful new friends, for life. I start a webpage, which will lead to a new career. "Now is my time."

It is not all smooth sailing. My father is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. I continue to work mind-numbing jobs for bad pay. But 'angry' songs like 'Aenema' and 'Hooker with a Penis' become tools of catharsis, rather than reinforcing the darkness. I am no longer wallowing.

Remnants of Ænima -related magik continue to swirl through the air of subsequent years, incendiary particles landing in my life periodically. Heavily interested in 'alternative history', I am bemused to find my concert ticket for Tool's 1997 Australian tour has a familiar, esoteric phrase printed upon it: ’Et in Arcadia Ego’. A shared interest; I check out the band’s website looking for more information. A few years later, now running a website devoted to these topics, I off-handedly email Tool's webmaster when he posts on this same subject, not particularly expecting a reply. Instead, a new friendship forms.

Another few years on, and in between meetings with a Hollywood producer in Los Angeles, and a flight to London to visit alternative history author Graham Hancock, I find myself - through my new friend - sitting down to dinner with Danny Carey himself. Somehow a strange path has formed through time and space, from that first record store encounter with Undertow, to the transformational magik of Ænima falling into my hands by chance , to a moment almost a decade on, where I - surreally - am now casually chatting with one of the creators of these albums that have been so significant in my life.

Now another ten years on - twenty in total - and the album remains an all-time favourite. A few rivals persist; Led Zeppelin IV; Neil Young’s Ragged Glory; Prince’s Sign o’ the Times. But none come close to the latent power I feel that still resides in Ænima to this day, waiting for someone to press play and release it into this world once more.

There’s serious magik woven into the fabric of the songs on that album.
Lightning in a bottle.
Genius.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tool's Ænima , I'm going to give away a signed copy of the original lenticular cover CD - signed by Danny Carey himself - on October 1, the original release date for the CD. Stay tuned for details on how to enter by liking The Daily Grail on Facebook.

Aenima signed by Danny Carey

Prince's Otherworldly Encounter As a Child

Prince(Image by Steve Parke Photography)

There was always something otherworldly about Prince – a pixie-like man (both in stature (he stood 5'2"), and in his facial features) who possessed musical talents that one can only assume were bestowed at a crossroads in the deep south around midnight (he was said to be proficient on at least 35 instruments, and pretty much a master at guitar, piano, bass and drums). He was like a prince of the fairies who decided to slip into our reality through a mushroom ring, just to screw with our heads for a bit. (Which is one of the reasons I love the photo above)

So it doesn't seem too surprising that in 2009 Prince told of how - according to his mother - as a youngster he had an encounter with an 'angel', who cured him of his childhood epilepsy:

I've never spoken of this before, but I was born epileptic. And I used to have seizures when I was young. My mother and father didn't know what to do, how to handle it, but they did their best they could with what little they had.

My mother told me one day I walked into her and said 'Mum, I'm not going to be sick anymore'. She said, 'Why?', and I said 'An angel told me so.'

Now, I don't remember saying it, that's just what she told me.

Just to add to the spookiness factor, earlier this year Prince confided that he was a lucid dreamer, and during those dreams he conversed with people he knew who had passed. According to his friend Jeremiah Freed (known online as 'Dr Funkenberry'), during a performance in January Prince...

...mentioned David Bowie's passing, he also mentioned that he has lucid dreams a lot, and he sees friends that have passed away in these dreams, and he is able to conversate (sic) with them, and he looks forward to these dreams. This was before his long-time girlfriend Vanity passed away (on February 15)...this is before that even, so it just was a little eerie.

Godspeed back to Faerie my friend, you will be missed.

Puscifer - "Grand Canyon"

A fantastic new piece of music from Maynard of Tool in his 'Puscifer' incarnation - lovely eastern influences in both melody and the droning guitar riff to enhance the mystical vibe, along with a beautiful video to accompany it.

Pipe Guy: Low-tech Techno Music

It's nice to know how once the next Carrington event drives our entire civilization to a post-Apocalyptic collapse, that even without electricity we'll still be able to enjoy of some wicked techno beats at the Thunderdome; all thanks to a few PVC pipes, a pair of thongs* & a whole lotta insane talent:

Ginger Pipe Bro gets to be eaten last.

(*)Thongs: The Aussie term for flip-flops, because g'day mate!

[H/t Geekologie]

A Very English Apocalypse: Current 93 at Halifax Minster

(photo by Tim Green)

The Minster Church of St. John the Baptist Halifax is a beautiful parish church, which has served West Yorkshire for over 900 years. Its classical Medieval form, gargoyles and exquisite stained glass windows are both typical of the great churches of England and carry with them the weight of England’s tumultuous ecclesiastical history. As befitting such a building, it has a very fine roof.

On 10 May 2014ce, Current 93 came in and blew the roof off of the place.

(photo by Cat Vincent)

Current 93 - named for Aleister Crowley's magickal current - have been a powerful, if sometimes overlooked, influence on industrial and dark ambient music and British magic and mysticism since their founding in 1982. Essentially a series of collaborations between founder and sole continuing member David Michael Tibet and a continually shifting collection of musicians (including the likes of Nick Cave, Björk, Steve Ignorant of Crass, Marc Almond, Antony Hegarty, Andrew W.K. and Tiny Tim), their sound has shifted from their original tape-loop-based work of their early productions to a style which Tibet has called ‘apocalyptic folk’ - and the Apocalypse, especially in the original Greek sense of ‘an unveiling’, is something Tibet is particularly interested in.

Despite the enduring Englishness of Current 93’s symbolism (Enid Blyton's childhood character Noddy, picnics, fields of oil seed rape, British folk music and practices), Tibet was actually born and raised in Malaysia. Interested in the mystical from his youth, he has pursued these interests enthusiastically - his studies include reading Crowley at 13, training in Nyingmapa Tantric Buddhism (probably the reason he was given his surname of Tibet by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge during his brief stint in Psychic TV) and learning to read Hebrew, Akkadian, Ancient Greek and Coptic in order to better study early Christian works. Tibet considers himself a Christian, albeit one happy to work with these eclectic influences... and also to be the creator of what I truly think is one of the finest curses I have ever encountered: the track ‘Benediction’ from the first C93 album I ever heard, the long-time banned Swastikas For Noddy.

 

What drove me on then as now was my sense that time was running out, that the apocalypse was also personal and that playing hide and seek behind all the cartoon messiahs was the Messiah with both peace and a sword.

-David Tibet

The Halifax concert was unquestionably a powerful manifestation of this compassionate-yet-cataclysmic apocalyptic spirit. It began with bells...

Before the band came out a carillon of bells played on the speakers, resonating in the Minster’s glorious acoustic space, as the aisles filled with an eclectic mix of music fans, pagans and goths (including one fine lady in full Edwardian costume). Finally, the band took their places and Tibet - a puckish, tiny figure in trilby and bare feet - sang out the first lines in his distinctive, querulous voice;

“The Invisible Church...”

(photo by Cat Vincent)

Never a band to excessively dwell on their musical past, the majority of the gig comprised a performance of the latest album I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell (A Channel) - the music mostly led by the playing of pianist Reinier van Houdt, a performer who never forgot that the piano is a percussion instrument. There’s a resonance to those songs and Tibet’s voice, even beyond that provided by the setting - a sense of what the Sufis call a zab’bat, a ‘forceful occasion’. Tibet is far from what one would consider a normal front man in the classic rock sense - often he wandered into the aisle of the church to just stand and watch the band as they played, sometimes singing from there (especially in the sorrowful ‘With These Dromedaries’, with its heart-wrenching line "I saw Jhonn pass by" - referring to his late friend and abiding influence Jhonn Balance of Coil). The gig ended with two rousing encores of past works - ‘Imperium V’ and ‘Black Ships Ate The Sky’. By the time the last notes echoed in those old church walls, the audience, the band, Tibet - even that ancient space itself - seemed transformed, carried into a future of possible apocalyptic times, somehow, the better and stronger for it.

I'm not an evangelist… Current is about trying to explain myself to myself and to work out my own salvation.

-David Tibet

The album I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell (A Channel) and other Current 93 works are available from copticcat.com


Post Script: Synchronicity fans might care to note the gig took place on John Constantine's birthday.

Cosmo Sheldrake - The Moss (Live at the Village)

Cosmo Sheldrake

The musical career of Cosmo Sheldrake - son of 'maverick biologist'/parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake - continues to forge ahead, with the 24-year-old multi-instrumentalist releasing a music video to accompany his official debut single, 'The Moss':

Cosmo describes The Moss as “an ode to nonsense for its own sake”. Invoking many of the classic figures of nonsense literature, Cosmo embarks on a peg-legged jaunt, draping finely woven vocal harmonies over an underbelly of electronics, strings, and an Armenian Duduk (recorded at a folk session in a country pub in East Sussex).

The music video complements the off-centre nature of Cosmo's music and the 'nonsense literature'-based lyrics by being set in a miniature village:

The B-side of the single is also worth a listen. In 'Solar', Cosmo Sheldrake recites a verse from the William Blake poem 'I Rose Up At The Dawn of Day', over a sonic tapestry weaved from seismological signals from the Sun, field recordings of Ecuadorian flutes and singing from the Central African Aka Pygmies:

You can find out more about Cosmo Sheldrake and his music via his website and his Soundcloud account.

Related:

The Music of Birds & Fractal Dancing

When Jarbas Agnelli was reading a newspaper one day, he saw a photo of birds perched on wires. He was immediately struck by how the arrangement of the birds resembled musical notes. So he cut out the photo and composed music. Or rather, the birds did. The result is enchanting.

Agnelli wrote:
The birds’ bodies were mostly above the wires. So I took them as notes filling the spaces between the lines. Those notes are F, A, C, E and G. If you make a melody or play chords with those 5 notes, there is no way to go wrong. Of course, as I said, I had to decide about some things and make some interpretations. No accidents. 4 by 4 tempo. And the duration of the notes. But I tried to keep it as pure as possible, on the matters of note pitch, note sequence and chords.

From the middle of the song on, I embellished the arrangement, playing variations of the theme, on various orchestral instruments, like the oboe, the bassoon and the clarinet. I think the success of the piece comes from all those elements. The idea of birds composing a song. The music itself. The illustrative video. source

I can only imagine what symphonies are being composed by the fractal dancing of starlings...

Cosmo Sheldrake - The Fly (Parts 1 and 2)

I've previously posted a music video by Rupert Sheldrake's son Cosmo. Cosmo Sheldrake uses found sounds, electronic effects and loops (and a whole bunch of musical talent) to create beautifully off-centre compositions, and his latest is no different: William Blake's poem The Fly put to music, and performed live on a crabbing boat (Part 1, above) and on the back of a horse-drawn cart in Bulgaria (Part 2, below). Love it.

You can listen to more of Cosmo's music at SoundCloud and learn more about him at his website (quick bio below).

Cosmo Sheldrake is a master looper, multi instrumentalist, who played jazz and classical piano from the age of 4, and regularly performs on banjo, loop station, keyboards, double bass, drums, didgeridoo, penny whistle, sousaphone and more. An inspirational singer and improviser, he draws on numerous and disparate musical traditions from Mongolia to West Africa, blues to classical and folk to Balkan brass. Cosmo is a composer and a producer and has written music for film and theatre. Based in London and Brighton, he runs vocal improv and beatboxing workshops, youth empowerment and wilderness camps. He teaches workshops in schools and runs a regular community choir in brighton. He also sings and performs with his brother Merlin; both play with the Gentle Mystics, who released their debut album in 2011. In january 2013 he performed at TEDx Whitechapel.

Related:

Volto - Tocino

Danny Carey, epic genius drummer for the superb Tool, has a new album out via another of the bands he plays with, Volto, titled Incitare. Along with Lance Morrison on bass and John Ziegler on guitars, DC rocks the hell out of nine tracks of prog-rock/jazz-fusion/metal hybrid goodness. RollingStone have the entire album streaming, so go take a listen.

Both DC and his (and our) good friend, Darklore writer Blair Blake, make cameos in the music video for the single Tocino, embedded above, which is full of occult symbols and dark, dream-like imagery. Pretty sure they didn't dress Blair up with any costumes or props though...I'm guessing they probably just filmed him at home going about his usual business.

Purchasing links for Incitare (iTunes downloads as well as limited edition vinyl) can be found at the Volto website. Awesome stuff, go grab it!

Space Oddity on the Space Station

Your daily dose of awesome: with his tenure aboard the International Space Station coming to an end, Commander Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie's "Space Oddity".