Psych / Prog
Ben Chasny / Rick Tomlinson 'Waves' LP
With a friendship stretching back nearly 20 years, it strangely ended up being a couple of childhood photographs that finally brought Ben Chasny and Rick Tomlinson together as collaborators. Both have rich musical backgrounds: Chasny being a member of the psych-rock outfit Comets on Fire but probably best known for his solo project, Six Organs of Admittance, while Tomlinson has released numerous records as Voice of the Seven Woods/Thunders and under his own name. “A mutual acquaintance, Jamie Tugwell, took me to go see Rick play live around 2005,” remembers Chasny. “Jamie kept saying how Rick was sort of an ornery fellow and that I would like him a lot. He was right. I loved his guitar playing right away, which seemed so far from what a lot of players were doing. We had drinks and hit it off. We remained friends over the years.” Chasny became a regular visitor to Tomlinson when on tour in the UK and one particular stay unearthed something serendipitous that would kickstart the making of a joint album. “I was staying at Rick’s house after a show and I looked over and saw a photo of him in a Halloween costume as a box of matches,” Chasny recalls. “It cracked me up because I have a similar photo of me as a robot and I tried to explain to him how it matched his photo.” About 6 months later Chasny found it and sent it to Tomlinson to show him the uncanny likeness of their childhood outfits. “Pretty soon after that we realized we needed to do a duo record and have those photos be on the cover,” says Chasny. “The entire record comes from the photos on the cover.” Tomlinson adds: “It was a pretty odd coincidence. Even down to us both standing on flags with a conifer behind us. We obviously had no option but to use these for the sleeve.” Recorded at Tomlinson’s house in Todmorden over three days one June, initially the pair didn’t quite know where they wanted to go with their musical direction. Tomlinson kept pulling out super rare records from his vast collection for inspiration and they sat and listened to the solo piano recordings of Popol Vuh’s Florian Fricke but they knew they needed to land on something that was intrinsically them. “We knew we wanted to do a record together but we weren’t sure what direction to take,” says Chasny. “When we first sat down to work out some ideas it was pretty much just us getting down to finally having a guitar showdown where each of us tried to outdo each other with flashy moves and ridiculous riffs and playing. After we got that out of our system, we were able to settle down and concentrate on a mood for the record to focus on.” The result is 6 instrumental tracks that capture beautifully fluid and interlocking guitars played with deft grace and skill but also a subtle looseness. On the 9 minute-plus ‘Wait For Low Tide’, the sparse and spacious back and forth playing becomes utterly hypnotic, neatly capturing the kind of natural and intuitive playing that can only come from music made between friends who understand the crucialness of leaving space for one another. While acoustic guitars are the primary means of expression on the record - from the soothing and gentle ‘i’ to the intricate playing of ‘Waking of Insects’ - the pair delve into ambient drone tape loop territory on the humming 16 minute ‘Paths of Ocean Currents and Wind Belts’, which further adds to the deeply textural, spacious and immersive feel of the album. All the tracks were recorded in one take, with the titles all stemming from translations from the Chinese book, The Dream Pool Essays, and then mixed in London at Jimmy Robertson's SNAFU studio, with additional mixing and mastering from Andrew Liles. The laid back, breezy and spontaneous approach to making this record is one that was reflective of the pair’s friendship and camaraderie, with their relationship ultimately driving the tone and feel of the finished album. “We hiked around the countryside, climbed into church bell towers, drank delicious beer in the middle of sunny afternoons, and had fantastic dinners,” says Chasny of the three-day recording period. “I think all of that wound up in the music. I really had the best time in the world.