Published on July 12th, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
Review: Nawksh | Mythic Tales of Tomorrow II
The ascendance of specialized indie labels has been an absolute boon for fans of commercially unviable “head” music. In some ways, these outlets function like the A&R scouts of old, but their choices are motivated by artistic merit and not profit margins, and the customers they serve are more likely to be turned off by “buzz” than attracted to it.
Social media has allowed these labels to build communities of interested listeners that see value in owning limited-run vinyl with a lossloss digital album to take on the go, and who want to see money going back to the artist so they can make more music.
“This release will set Nawksh on a similar trajectory to Californian solo artist Morgan Delt, who inked deal with Sub Pop on the strength of one cassette…”
Emblematic of this new approach is Cardinal Fuzz in the UK, who continues to do an extraordinary job finding fresh ears for underground music old and new. They communicate with fans as fans, with an enthusiasm that entirely deflates the pretension that pervades insular art scenes, where elitists guard their knowledge, position, and access jealously against any unwanted intrusion.
In many ways, these DIY labels are like mates at school—the kid who slipped you a C90 with Ill Communication on one side and Pork Soda on the other, changing your life in an instant, not a publicist screaming desperately over the noise in 50-point Helvetica: “BAND X: SO HOT RIGHT NOW.”
But Cardinal Fuzz are just one example: Beyond Beyond is Beyond, Rocket Recordings, Guersson, Captcha, Riot Season, WeEmptyRooms, and in Tokyo, GuruGuru Brain, are also serving as cultural clearing-houses for next-gen psych and far-out music. The question “what bands do you like?” is now better phrased as “what’s label do you like?”, as it transcends any individual act or genre while still anchoring listeners’ taste to a certain “sound”.
Brainchild of the psychedelic outfit Kikagaku Moyo, GuruGuru Brain has added key Asian groups to their roster with discerning taste: listen to the GGB-issued Minami Deutsch, Sundays & Cybele, Ramayana Soul, and Scattered Purgatory to see how they’re transmitting new-wave psychedelia from Asia into global consciousness.
The news a few days ago that a virtually unknown Pakistani native and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hyatt (aka Nawksh) was added to the GGB roster was greeted with excitement: again, not generated by a publicist, but by listeners who simply trust the labels they like to deliver quality sounds, sight unseen.
The EP, Mythic Tales of Tomorrow II, is set for release in August and does not disappoint. In fact, I think this release will set Nawksh on a similar trajectory to Californian solo artist Morgan Delt, who inked a deal with Sub Pop on the strength of one cassette all within the space of a year.
Nawksh has also confirmed an appearance at Liverpool Psych Fest this September with extra dates throughout the UK: it’s the young artist’s first time playing outside Pakistan.
Comparisons with Morgan Delt can be carried a little further. Musically, both are multi-instrumentalists who blend vintage audio equipment, acoustic instruments, and “found sounds” in a digital environment to produce mind-melting collages of extraordinary depth, imagination, and detail.
Where Morgan Delt deals more in tropical pop and the weirdness of the ’60s Bay Area tradition, Nawksh’s background in game development lends his sonic explorations a more digital feel: Selected Ambient Works-era Aphex Twin more than The Byrds.
“Like a child flipping back and forth across a cosmic radio dial, moments of coherence that shift and fade…”
That’s not to say the feel of this album is clinical; its flesh drips with an organic richness and diversity of sound that’s reflective of the time and care taken in its assembly over many months. On second track First Friend, digital loops sound like didgeridoo, while elsewhere flourishes of acoustic guitar, south-Asian melody, murmured vocals, ritual chanting, percussion, and sampling make for a compelling mix that draws you deeper into its alien world.
A first pass through this dreamlike EP feels disorienting, in part because of how it’s been cut up: this work should be consumed in a single sitting, or stuck on repeat — in fact the closing moments actually circle back to the digital effect used on track one, Press Play, restarting your journey almost without you realizing.
The curious way in which the artist has chosen to divide the tracks mean it’s not something you can dip into at random: each piece overlaps or fits into the next like pieces of some intricate jigsaw puzzle, and the record could work equally well just as one long track.
The 12-minute closing piece Exile & A Mirror (featuring sonic contributions by Nawksh’s friend Smax), however, encapsulates the multitude of ideas, motifs, and psychedelic sonic manipulations that have welled up and submerged throughout the record, like a child flipping back and forth across a cosmic radio dial, moments of coherence that shift and fade back into the ether.
It’s something you want to listen to for pleasure
“The Mythic Tales of Tomorrow are two things; a labyrinthine series of stories I’ve been collecting and finding ways to connect, since I was fifteen,” Nawksh has said of the work.
“They are also a way for me to understand and express internal processes beyond music. One is coherent and follows its own rules. The other is purely symbolic and poetic. They have this way of feedbacking into each other, that culminates on a project like this.”
The melding of our culture’s most pervasive sounds — the bleeps and chirps of digital devices, snatches of twee ’70s movie-soundtracks floating out of flickering windows and into the night, the mechanical purr of a computer fan — these sounds and more are blended with live instrumentation and manipulated effects with uncommon skill and imagination.
As well as working so well in execution, this whole EP engages emotionally; it’s something you want to listen to for pleasure. On every level, it’s a remarkable success, and we can’t wait to hear more from the genre-bending mind of Nawksh in the future.