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When Pharoah Sanders entered the studio to record Tauhid, his second album, he must have felt at ease. Which may have come to a surprise to him. Though he’d developed a reputation as an intense tenor with an idiosyncratic style, Sanders had yet to establish himself as a marquee player. Pharoah’s First had come and gone in 1964 without making much of a splash; while the soloing is marked by the intense overblowing that was already becoming his trademark, it overwhelms the hard-bop backing of the band, even one working as hard as this one.

But by the time he assembled a group to record the follow-up two years later, he’d ridden the hoarse wave of his sound far enough to become one of jazz’s most exciting young players. He was playing regularly with John Coltrane, whose sound Sanders was helping to redefine on records like Ascension and Om, and with whom he’d toured Japan. He’d recorded with Ornette Coleman and worked with Sun Ra, who gave the man born Farrell Sanders his regal nickname. Tauhid—which along with 1969’s Jewels of Thought and 1970’s Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) is now being lovingly reissued by Anthology Recordings—came at a watershed moment. It would be his first for the powerhouse Impulse! Label, and and his first chance to step out from his enviable role as Coltrane’s confidant and establish himself as a true member of the vanguard.

So it’s still surprising today, fifty-one years after the album’s release, just how long he waits to make his voice heard. It takes a full five and a half minutes of “Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt,” the album’s two-part opening track, before the leader appears—and when he does, he’s tooting a piccolo. It’s an inauspicious greeting, but a deft one, too: While we’ve waited for the soloist to take to the stage, his band, led by Dave Burrell’s chunky piano chording and the rumble of Roger Blank’s toms, gin up a distant thunderstorm and slowly bring it nearer. As they recede and Sanders enters, it’s as though he’s descended from a dust cloud, a mythical man humming through a pan pipe. He finally picks up his horn a good seven minutes later, and again he takes his time, slowly moving from warm notes of gratitude to the kind of all-out reed-biting attack for which he’s still most well known. “Japan,” a traditional tune Sanders learned on tour in Asia, follows in a kind of gummy gray mode that has nearly as much in common with the bedroom lo-fi of, say, mid-’90s K Records and the sweated-out folk of Amen Dunes as it does with, say, Coltrane’s Live in Japan.

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Sunday night: Aquarium Drunkard presents sax legend Azar Lawrence at Zebulon in Los Angeles, performing his spiritual jazz masterwork – 1974’s Bridge Into The New Age, in its entirety. Joined by an all-star group that includes heavy hitters Henry Franklin (bass) and Munyungo Jackson (percussion), this is one for the ages. Tickets still available, here, and we have some pairs for AD readers. Leave a comment below with your favorite jazz lp from ’74 to enter.

Aquarium Drunkard djs on the decks.

SYNTH

Rescued from oblivion by the Love All Day label, Planetary Peace’s beautifully beguiling Synthesis is a modular synth masterpiece. Created in the early 1980s by the husband-wife duo of Will & Kalima Sawyer, it was pressed up on limited edition cassette and generally forgotten until a collector came across a box of tapes collecting dust in New Mexico. An extremely fortunate find — available in double LP form (or digitally for the bargain price of $1), we can now all bask in the shimmering glow of these strange and lovely hymns to the new age. There’s a wonderful contrast here between the futurist sounds of the Sawyer’s Serge synths and their vocals, which often sound as though they could be beamed in from several centuries ago. And while the vibe leans toward the utopian, there’s a heaviness that creeps in as well — you may not hear anything quite as dark and foreboding as “Mountain Horns.” A one-of-a-kind record, a universe unto itself.  words / t wilcox

Planetary Peace :: I Am That I Am

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Reaching for Indigo, the fifth lp by Haley Fohr’s Circuit des Yeux, begins with a cataclysmic break, a complete shift from one state of being into another. “Brainshift, came like a tidal wave,” Fohr sings, her deep, rich voice hovering over a muted organ. The imagery is overpowering, like a submersion in deep water. Inspired by a profound moment of recognition, the album represents a giant step forward for the Chicago singer and composer.

Fohr’s distinct voice has brought an exquisite flavor to a number of records this year — including Mind of Mirrors’ Undying Color and Six Organs of Admittance’s Burning The Threshhold — but Reaching for Indigo is most indicative of the fullness of her vision. Recorded with Cooper Crain of Bitchin’ Bajas, the album trades in spectral folk, overlapping minimalism, and haunted psychedelia. Masterfully, Fohr uses each sonic element, from synth drones to layered acoustic guitars, to accentuate the emotional timbre of her singular voice.

“I really use chaos and chance a lot in my composition,” Fohr explains over the phone. “I’m learning to be more communicative with my work. It definitely needs to convey what I’m feeling; the feeling has to translate, it’s the thing I’m most concerned about.”

Here, Fohr explains where the album came from, detailing how the writing of neurologist Oliver Sacks and socioeconomics influenced her approach. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Aquarium Drunkard: The title Reaching for Indigo references a specific moment in your life. Do you care to talk about that experience?

Haley Fohr: It was kind of a spiritual awakening, for lack of a better term. I mean, I’m not religious or anything [but] music has led the way this last decade in my life. There have been a lot of challenges and obstacles. A lot of times they manifest in a dark way and it becomes this do-or-die situation. But what happened to me on January 22nd, 2016 came from within me. It was a moment of clarity. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy, but I have to wonder — ’cause I’d been touring constantly for the last four or five years — if I was subconsciously searching for something. I was with a close friend, convulsing, and something clicked in me. I knew what I had to do. I pretty much isolated myself for a couple of months and wrote the songs that you hear on this record. I sat with myself and gave myself some space and things really started to coalesce in this really bizarre way.

AD: What triggered this event?

Haley Fohr: That’s the thing. It just came out of nowhere. It really felt like it came from intuition. It wasn’t brought on by an outside force; it was just within me. It was really late at night and I just started crying. I felt like I needed to do something. I was so afraid. At the time, I was dating a guy. I broke up with him. I was living with all these musicians and I just flew the coop.

AD: How did the people around you react?

Haley Fohr: I don’t know that anyone understood the logic behind it besides myself [but] I listened to myself and I was deeply rewarded. As an artist, when something really personal happens to you, you want to celebrate it and try to translate it in a universal way. A few months prior to working on these songs, Oliver Sacks had passed away. Towards the end of his life, he was sharing personal antidotes. One of them was about the color indigo and how it’s scientifically undefined. Each color has a frequency, just as every music note has a frequency, but people have never come to terms on a unified frequency for indigo. The story that Oliver tells is one of taking a bunch of psychedelics and this cocktail of pills. [He envisioned indigo]…and said it was the most beautiful color he’d ever seen. Then it was gone and he never saw it again. I thought it was such a beautiful story about humanity and these undefined abstract things we find for worship throughout our culture. This moment, beyond definition, came to him and lived within him and then it was gone. For me, it was a really positive notion. Why else would you trudge through these day-to-day obstacles or existential crises? I mean that’s the point: reaching for something you’ll never reach.

Tokyo Flashback

Originally released by P.S.F. Records in 1991, the indispensable Tokyo Flashback compilation was a gateway drug for many listeners, shining a light on some of Japan’s most deeply fried underground acts, including Keiji Haino, Ghost, White Heaven and more. It remains one of the best entry points to this fertile (and ongoing) scene — especially in Black Editions‘ labor of love double-LP reissue (the first time the comp has been available on vinyl), which looks as good as it sounds. Historical importance aside, Tokyo Flashback is just a fantastic listen from side A to side D, whether it’s Marble Sheep’s massive, Hawkwind-worthy opening jam to Ghost’s acid-drenched psych folk improv. It’s been altering minds worldwide for more than a quarter century now — let it alter yours.

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Penned by Richard Atkins and Richard Manning at age 19, and recorded with the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles, the s/t Richard Twice lp found a home via Mercury Records in 1969. A concise statement of diaphanous psychedelia, the record’s a soft blend of harmonic folk-pop elegantly filled out by strings, brass and flutes. It also proved to be the their sole release following a fateful night performing in Los Angeles at a small Hollywood club — a night the NY Times coincidentally documented earlier this year. But forget all that for now, and just cue up side B, track 1, “If I Knew You Were The One”.

Richard Twice :: If I Knew You Were The One

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On his new ep The Load, Michael Nau chases his latest album, Some Twist, with another shot. The songs are drawn from the same batch as that full-length, but fully worth their own attention. The title track couples JJ Cale vibes with skronking free jazz; “Sure It Can” drifts into blissful R&B; “Diamond Anyway” finds Nau pairing his voice with Natalie Prass, conjuring up spooky, string-soaked drama.

Today, we’re happy to share a mixtape from Nau, one that showcases his attraction to the relationship between rhythm and melody. “There’s not really a theme to it,” Nau says, “But I’ve realized these are all songs I’ve asked ‘Hey, what’s this’ [about] over the years, [hearing them on] someone else’s playlist.” Tracklist below. The Load is available now on Suicide Squeeze Records.

Some Strange Rain :: Michael Nau/A Mixtape