Entheogenic Dharma Music
Reviewed by Kent Manthie
The latest album to come out from the cosmopolitan Lee Negin, the enticingly mouthful of a title, Entheogenic Dharma Music, is another in a rich, musical journey; a rich, psychonautical juggernaut, capable of emptying the tables and the bar-stools within a few minutes of its charm, it’s seductive, mesmerizing, and quite gratifying as well, that is, it can be gratifying whether you’re in a trance, chemically or organically induced, or if you’re home, alone (and, let’s say, for the sake of argument, you live in an apartment building, one where excessive noise is frowned upon, you can make good use of headphones -earbuds, IMO, give me the best sound and when you have them pushed into your ear, like that, and you turn on some music, turn it up, nice and loud, you’ll soon have this feeling where it’s as if the music is coming right from your brain, especially if you’re caught up in something with elements of sonic virtuosity; that’s, for me, one of the advantages of tight-fitting ear buds.
Anyway, so, getting back to Lee Negin and his adventurous new work, Entheogenic Dharma Music, it’s another in a line of albums which Lee has released over the past five or six years: entrancing works of art, from the intricate designs on the covers to the complex, layered sounds which converge quite nicely. The beat is steady, though not too “up front”; the rhythm, the percussion, kind of stays…well, out of the foreground, at least. By no means, though, does that diminish that infectious beat, which drives the music.
As far as the title of the album, itself; well, I wanted to get some kind of definition or explanation of what “entheogenic” was and it was from Wikipedia that I found a great working definition of the word:
Entheogens have been used to supplement many diverse practices geared towards achieving transcendence, including meditation, yoga, prayer, psychedelic art, chanting, and multiple forms of music. They have also been historically employed in traditional medicine via psychedelic therapy
That was just the top paragraph of the entry for Entheogenic in Wikipedia. Anyway, I’m glad I checked up on the word itself because it then gave more meaning to Negin’s work.
A few songs worth mentioning here include the opening cut, “Dervish Dharma Dancing”, an 8 ½ minute pleasure trip that then, seamlessly goes right into the next cut, which is one of my faves on here “Psychonautics 101(Explore Inner Space)” which gives off a kind of transient, in a cosmic sense, sentiment. “Yamonote Line” is also a great ride. It’s a 10:37 trip into outer space via inner space. Great ending to it as well!
Also, when we talk about Entheogenic Dharma Music having, in part, a psychedelic tinge, we’re not talking about what many think of when they hear the word “psychedelic”: hippies, long hair, acid, and, by the late 60s, a dumbing down, at least by many, certainly not all, of the whole Timothy Leary/Richard Alpert school of LSD – but, hey, when you compare Leary and co.’s work – serious, academic research – to what the CIA as well as other intel agencies, like Army Intelligence, was doing in the 50s: doing their LSD research on unwitting subjects.
By the time I got to the second half of the album, I noticed that the music started to take on a different shape, so to speak. While still maintaining its neo-psychedelic colors, songs like “In the Lucid Moments” and the first half of “Last Acid Drop (Rev. 2)” had slowed the average tempo down a bit and mellowed out its initial intensity, but by the time you get to the latter part of “Last Acid Drop (Rev. 2)” the beats get more steady and lots of interesting, programmed sounds whistle on through until it has morphed into a dreamy, ethereal specter, which takes you to the edge of the song and then slowly goes out in a glowing halo of light.
That’s still not the end, though. Next there are two tracks left: “Crystal Shards Infuse My Tea” and the title track. The latter of which has this electric ambience to it, shape-shifting its sounds as we go through it. For a good comparison -or at least something not too far out from it, think of “Aumgn” from one of my favorite Can albums, Tago Mago, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. As for the title track, it’s got this swirling sound in the background that is made up of either a guitar or a synth programmed to sound like one. That, plus, some great drumming that also seems to go around in circles. I bet it’d sound really intense on headphones. It’s also the right tune on which to go out. As the title track goes on, it seems to envelop the listener in this, I don’t know, “industrial EDM”-? Or maybe instead of trying to pin a label on it, why not just say what it sounds like and then say that it’s electronic-based, DIY, done by someone who really knows how to put together a good package (of music) and it’s the stuff Lee did. So, let’s just call it future-electro-dance that happens to be quite good and shouldn’t necessarily be stuffed into one box, at the expense of others not getting to hear it because they base their music selections on the “genre” or “subgenre”.
Anyway, give it a try and see how it fits in with other, like-minded projects. If you’d like to see a video from this, check out: https://youtu.be/eJuKWZ51Kco to check out the video for the title track; the graphics are quite trippy! Don’t watch it if you’re likely to get an epileptic seizure, from all the flashing lights, etc.!! Also – if you want to catch another video from the new album, check out the one for “Psychonautics 101 (Explore Inner Space)”: https://youtu.be/2g0HA4lLtsE – that should give you a taste for what else is there. Enjoy! -KM.