From list No. 268
EXPO '70 Animism (Kill Shamen) cd
It's amazing how quickly Expo '70 went from being a group we had never heard of, whose cd-r we got randomly sent to us in the mail, to a dronerock juggernaut, releasing disc after disc of amazing ambient kraut-flecked drift, what is beginning to seem remarkably like a monthly installment of outerspace sonic exploration. But heck, we'd much rather get a new 'issue' of far out Expo '70 dronebliss every month than say, Star Magazine (well, actually, okay, maybe Star was a bad example, but definitely more than say Spin or Rolling Stone or pretty much any other monthly installment sort of thing, anyway...).
Animism just so happens to be Expo '70's first actual cd as well, the first release that's not a limited edition cd-r, which is one of the reasons we decided to make it record of the week. 'Cuz to be totally honest, every single one of the Expo '70 releases could have been, and heck, maybe should have been Records of the Week. Certainly if we based it on how much they get played in the store, and the reaction of the folks hearing it, and the fact that the cds have been impossible to keep in stock. But that's only one of the reasons. The other, is that Animism, in it's own subtly space-y and psychedelic way, is quite possibly the 'heaviest' Expo '70 release yet.
The record begins much in the same way as most of the others. A huge drifting rumbling soundscape. Spare and wide open. Across this warm expanse drift disembodied guitar squiggles, reverbed scrapes, bits of fragmented melodies, post rock snippets, tinkling percussive shimmer,all drifting over soft swells of undulating low end. There are tons of FX, but it's not Acid Mothers style freakout, instead, these sonic aktions are muted and smeared into dreamy streaks. Never has a music sounded so much like what it must feel like to drift weightless through space. Cloaked in inky blackness, but with the sparkle of a million stars illuminating the seemingly endless emptiness. And so it goes on, each track, a slow lugubrious crawl through the galaxies, strange shapes drift by, colored lights, every bit of melody like some barely visible shooting star, soft billow clouds of FX enveloping you before dissipating and leaving you to once again drift wide-eyed into infinity.
Track three, though, is where things start to get a little scary. In come the guitars, and this time it's not the little glimmers and twinkles, these are thick sheets of crumbling rumbling distorted buzz. Relentlessly trudging beast like across the same barren soundscapes, but leaving a trail of blown speakers in its wake. The effects here are much more blown out, melodies slip and slither amidst the coruscating heaviness, sounding almost like someone transported SUNNO))) back to the seventies, where they ended up jamming with Klaus Schulze and Ash Ra Tempel. Granted the Expo '70 cd-r Center Of The Earth, was also pretty heavy, but on Animism, the heaviness seems to be more deftly integrated with the lovelier psych-drone-drift parts, an organic space kraut doom, as dark and dense as it is dreamy and effervescent. The record effortlessly drifts back and forth, from black drone to space-y drift, as if one couldn't possibly exist in this universe without the other.
There are some subtle sonic surprises too, like the way-up-in-the-mix, tripped out harmonized guitars on "Entering The Night On A Highway Of Astral Projection", the folky acoustic strum on "Missing Sun", and the swirling SUNNO)))-y murk of "Shape-Shifting Mountain Mover", sounding a bit like the Angelic Process with the treble turned all the way down and the bass all the way up! Blissy and muddy, an epic blown out glistening dirge, suffocated under layer after layer of FX drenched detritus.
If there was ever an ultimate soundtrack for blowing the hatch and floating free, doomed to a languorous eternity of drug fueled drift and buzzing rumbling psychedelic space rock torpor, this is most certainly it.
Expo '70 = Ash Ra Temple + Sunn O))) + Tangerine Dream
When Earth 2 came out, I don't think many people foresaw a time in the future when minimalist guitar drone records would be en vogue. And yet here we are in 2007, and it seems like Earth imitators are a dime a dozen. Expo '70 manages to separate himself from the pack by drawing not only from dirge metal but also krautrock and space music, making for a somewhat lighter, more lysergic listening experience. The seven tracks here are all improvised on electric guitar, with occasional intervention by acoustic guitars and saxophone, creating an often blissful and sometimes ominous atmosphere of drug-soaked drift. This is a welcome addition to the ever-growing corpus of space-doom-dirge records, and since this is the first non-cd-r release in Expo '70's catalog, one that will hopefully garner him a wider audience. –Jona Gerlach
After five well-received, though decidedly underground, CD-R releases, Kansas City-based Justin Wright - aka Expo '70 - comes aboveground with his first official CD release. Animism follows solidly in the footsteps of its predecessors, offering over an hour of trippy instrumentals that flow from ethereal float and cosmic drone to quietly psychedelic space-strumming.
Animism as a title carries with it some assumptions. Paraphrasing, the concept of animism says that something akin to a soul, or an innate life-force, imbues everything, not just so-called "living" things. This raises the question, then, whether these seven songs are intended to give voice to these souls, whether this is a soundtrack to a specific set of things, or perhaps it's simply a philosophy that Wright felt had some bearing on the music. Ultimately, there's no telling; no clues are given, so it's up to the listener. Which is perhaps how it should be.
The album opens with its shortest piece, "Outside In," a simple droning intro that leads into "Mahogany Lake," a long dose of Tangerine Dream that drifts on gentle drones and placidly echoing guitar notes. It's the perfect soundtrack to your next isolation tank experience. With "Eagle Talons," we're given a dose of heavy, glacial sound masses that delve into more threatening territory, but "Universal Horizon" provides a respite of slowly-struck gongs reverberating, a meditational moment.
The last two-thirds of the album primarily consists of the two longest pieces, broken up by the brief, acoustic "Missing Sun." The 20-minute and heavily-titled "Entering the Night on a Highway of Astral Projection" flows on glowering waves of thick drone, an oceanic rhythm augmented after the first third with sharp guitar lines and cloudlike synths. Midway through it ominously grows very quiet indeed, then expands again into a rumbling desert of low-end hum. "Shape-Shifting Mountain Mover" closes the album with 15 minutes of slow Floydian bass chug amidst slowly-blowing waves of sound that give way to ambient tone float and gentle guitar notes as an on/off buzz sees us out the other side.
Animism is crafted on frameworks built long ago by the likes of Brian Eno, Cluster, and Klaus Schulz, and Wright clearly understands the brain-melting appeal of their cosmic tones. While "Eagle Talons" bears similarities to contemporaries such as Growing and Om, it lacks the dynamism of pieces like "Entering the Night" and leaves less of an impression. "Missing Sun" is the other odd man out on the album, but is similarly multidimensional and trance-inducing. Overall, with Animism Wright has recorded a coming-out album that should see many more people talking about Expo '70 in the months to come.
By Mason Jones
FLAGPOLE: Athens, GA Weekly
Originally published August 8, 2007
A vision: Raphael Ravenscroft, saxophonist on Gerry Rafferty's 1978 rock radio hit "Baker Street," ascends by full moonlight Huayna Picchu, the great mountain of protection and majesty overlooking the ancient Lost City of the Incan Empire, Machu Picchu. Reflecting on his role in that seminal adult contemporary depiction of soiled and lonely cityscapes, Ravenscroft wonders aloud if more should have been done to portray the organism of night and its shadow language of gutters and concrete, at once seductive and repulsive. He has been haunted every decade since over whether the iconic woodwind strains he recorded that year with Rafferty were the best he could do. That they were merely a dilution of the truth is, for him, without question.
Ravenscroft reaches the peak of Huayna Picchu sullen and tired. As he approaches the Temple of the Moon, immortal Incan shrine to the lunar deity, he sees a wispy woman within; behind her, a teenage boy wearing Ray-Bans. It is Rebecca De Mornay and Tom Cruise from Risky Business, playing out her delicate seduction. The film's haunting Tangerine Dream soundtrack emanates from the surrounding stone.
De Mornay and Cruise turn to notice Ravenscroft, dissipating into fine mist as their necks crane. Their mists unify and slowly envelope the submissive saxophonist, melting him into their own shape, and by the hovering pulse of Tangerine Dream, the newly formed triple-souled wraith extends itself as though a thin cotton thread to the moon, homeward.
On that moon is Justin Wright, sole proprietor of the Kansas City, MO, sonic talisman known as Expo '70. Above him floats a sweet black Gibson SG encased in a crystal pyramid, and into this pyramid drifts the De Mornay/ Cruise/ Ravenscroft/ Tangerine Dream string-wraith. With a reel-to-reel tape machine and a single microphone, Wright records the sound of this intercourse to present it to the world as Animism, his first official full-length album (after nine self-released CD-Rs) of percussionless cosmological guitar and synthesizer drones. It is the sort of music that induces sincere visions, and should not be overlooked by aficionados of sound-induced introspection and the upside-down spacelessness garnered from staring at something unfathomable for as long as it takes to forget that anything else exists.
SCREAMING BLOODY MESS
Osaka 1970, site of the World's Expo Fair. It's theme, 'Progress and Harmony for Mankind'. One of the highlights was a moon rock brought back from the Apollo 11 mission. Progress and the future- if Justin Wright was around playing music then, there's a good chance he would have got a gig playing in Osaka, as like moon rocks his sound is both otherworldly and fascinating.
The prolific Wright, who up until now has released a grip of CD-R's with friends and established a small cult following amongst the layered guitar/drone set (who have compared him to Eno and SunnO)))- breaks out on his own with 'Animism' to deliver a fine conceptual record that takes in elements of krautrock, trippy psych and droney ambience.
Opening with the shortest piece, the droning "Outside In," it leads into "Mahogany Lake," which takes improvised guitar and weaves a long dose of 'mess with your headness'. The 20 minute epic 'Entering the Night on a Highway of Astral Projection' sounds exactly like the title suggests. Space is the place man. If you go to sleep listening to this stuff you wake up in a different vortex.
RAVEN SINGS THE BLUES BLOGSPOT
Animisim is Expo '70s first official CD release, following a string of heavy drone/krautrock inspired cd-r releases on Kill Shaman. Turning out to be one of the heavier releases in his catalog, Justin Wright lays down a ton of deep drone and spacey effects. Working slowly up from distant thunder to ethereal waves of billowy effects, the album is a solid frontrunner for drone album of the year. Wright seems to languish in the beautifully myopic effects of the drone, hitting you hard with the weight of the guitar but diffusing the landscape it exists in. Once the clouds roll in Wright faces the gale with a calm and even hand on the strings and a foot on the effects wrangling slow and easy space blues over the full force dronescape that looms overhead. Wright has garnered much attention from his cd-r releases and Animism stands to cement that reputation even further.
MY RECORD COLLECTION.ORG
Absolutely brilliant! Drone hasn't sounded this good since... well... since Young or perhaps Köner! From the very moment the shimmering wind samples of Outside In hit your eardrums to the last distorted seconds of the fade-out on Shape-Shifting Mountain Mover, you will be a prisoner of Wright's peculiar world. Animism reminds me quite a bit of Expo '70's Audio Archive series as it is quite varied (subtly for sure, but varied nonetheless). Basically this sounds like all your utmost favorite krautrock albums all mashed into one huge fucking monster album and then slowed down and stretched out beyond recognition. If any of you are curious about this artist's work, I BEG you to pick this one up first, not that the others aren't good, au contraire, but this one will wipe that stupid smirk off your face and knock you down on your ass. No point in isolating highlights here as there is not one dull second in sight! Without a doubt, one of my top five for 2007!
As I've said numerous times in the past, I'm a loud, dumb rock guy at heart. That works for me when wading through a sea of loud, dumb rock bands, but when faced with something else, it can be a bit of a chore to get into the right frame of mind. Especially ambient music. I mean, where are the fucking songs? Where's that hook that draws you in? What's the impetus to stick around for ten (or, even worse, 20) minutes of droning noodling?
For Expo 70's Animism, the brainchild of one Justin Wright, I'd recommend sequestering yourself in solitude with a really good pair of headphones. Then and there you'll get an answer to the above question. Typical of the genre, the songs unfold at a lethargic pace and blend in amongst each other. Each track serves as the introduction to the next, with Animism peaking with the 19 minutes of "Entering the Night on a Highway of Astral Projection" and the morose "Missing Sun." That last one is the closest to an actual song – it's driven by a simple acoustic guitar riff, similar to what was on Earth's Hex, with the aural effects serving as color. The final track, "Shape-Shifting Mountain Mover," repeats the more ethereal ambiance of the earlier portion of the album, closing it out as it began.
I'm not going to lie to you and say that Animism is going to get frequent listens, nor is it going to make it onto any personal Top Releases of 2007 list. But once I let go and gave into the music, this loud, dumb rock guy enjoyed the trip.
Review by John Pegoraro (StonerRock.com)
Wooden Shjips on Dusted Magazine praise Animism
Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: San Fran psychsters Wooden Shjips and Canadian Americana stars The Sadies.
Listed: Wooden Shjips + The Sadies
San Francisco psychedelic quartet may seem a few years late for the hippie resurgence of "New Weird America," but don't think anything less of them for it. After releasing a series of praised 7"s, their self-titled debut, released earlier this year on Holy Mountain, is one of the strongest releases the genres have seen in modern times. Culling from influences that span the 70s, their powerfully droning, and epically repetitive songs ebb and flow as well as any of their predecessors. Wooden Shjips is out now, and the band is playing selected dates around the country.
To start I'd like to point out that these are all contemporary bands, making records and playing shows right now (and most have MySpace pages, so have a listen). These are just ten records I picked up in the last year, but it could have been a list of twenty or thirty. Times are good for music lovers (at least we have that, right?).
6. Expo '70 – Animism (Kill Shaman)
I'm not going to mention the K-word, but I will say that I listen to a lot of German music from the early 70's. Hell, I probably listen to Ash Ra Tempel more than any other band (If anyone has that live stuff from '73, I'd love a copy). Expo '70 shares many traits with music of that time and place, but this is no derivative. Sublime, floating, trance music, indeed. This music needs to be toured with a full band and light show.
Expo '70 is the invention of the multi-instrumentalist Justin Wright – former guitarist in Living Science Foundation. Similar in thought to groups like Om and SunnO))), Wright is a guitar extraordinaire more interested in creating feelings and soundscapes than rocking out man hooks – though some do sprinkle in. Wright has released scores of CD-Rs from his home base in Kansas City; mainly as a means to feel productive and some of these have been picked up for wider release by Aquarius Records. Amongst the seven improvised instrumental tracks, a handful standout as splendid including the relatively short opener "Outside In," the spacey mood "Mahogany Lake," and two extended droning numbers "Entering the Night on a Highway of Astral Projection" and closer "Shape-Shifting Mountain Mover." If nothing else, Expo '70 will serve as excellent soundtrack material for indie films.
THREE IMAGINARY GIRLS
Three Imaginary Girls - "Seattle's Sparkly Indie-pop Press"
The liner notes for Animism explains that not only are almost all of the songs on the record improvised, but that Justin Wright used electric and acoustic guitars, as well as gongs, to create them.
If you haven't already clicked away from this review after reading that sentence, I would hope that your interest would be piqued by what Wright -- performing under the name Expo '70 -- does. The seven tracks on this disc are breathtaking epics of drone and spacious hum, unfolding in glacially in the manner of groups like Earth and Spectrum.
It seems strange to say, but it might be a good thing that Wright recorded this album on his own. There is enough room in the songs from them to breathe deeply, but others might feel the need to push them too hard, both in terms of energy and volume. By himself, Wright is able to let them evolve naturally, letting inspiration come when it comes. It materializes often and gloriously on Animism, and thankfully we are blessed with it on this near-perfect album.
-Bob Ham, December 04, 2007
EXPRESSWAY TO MY SKULL Blog
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Expo '70 is the (usually) one man drone project of Justin Wright, who hails from unlikely Kansas City, USA. The man has been churning out CDRs for about four years now, and each successive release has improved upon the last.
Animism is the most recent full length from this one man drone juggernaut and is perhaps the darkest material he has pumped out yet. The album starts off in the shadowy mountain passages of Tangerine Dream but soon picks up and sets its sights for the dark matter of the great kosmiche in the stars. An amped up, more chugging version of Sunn O))) is an apt comparison for the middle section of the record. After an intense mid-section, Animism slowly unfurls in a mess of dark and droning synths, interrupted occasionally by drawn out and buzzy riffage. One can't help but be imagine floating listlessly in the cosmos when listening to this one.