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Myriad Valley, "Otherworld"

OtherworldThis latest enigmatic find from Arizona's eternally far out and fascinating Was Ist Das? label will be an absolute revelation for anyone who misses Natural Snow Buildings as much as I do. Otherworld is apparently the debut release for this project, but any further details beyond that are non-existent other than the fact that these four pieces were recorded by someone named "Joe" in 2022. While the label's description name-checks a few '70s psych heavy-hitters as reference points in addition to Natural Snow Buildings (Third Ear Band and Popul Vuh), those elements manifest themselves much more subtly, as Otherworld is an oft-transcendent plunge into folk horror-inspired cosmic drone sorcery. That all-encompassing devotion to heavyweight drone majesty is also where Myriad Valley departs from Mehdi and Solange's path, as Joe does not let himself get distracted by any songcraft aspirations, opting instead to focus entirely on crafting massive, sustained psychotropic drones that feel like ancient field recordings from some remote mountain cult hellbent on opening an extra-dimensional portal through sheer vibrational magic.

Was ist Das?

The opening "Hanging Crystal Garden" makes for quite a mesmerizing introduction to Myriad Valley, as slow waves of buzzing tanpura lap at the shores of an occult nightmare. The buzzing tanpura drones are a ubiquitous feature throughout the album, as is ritualistic hand percussion (in this case, something like rattling bells), but this particular piece has an especially otherworldly and sinister vibe due to the strangled dissonance of the pipes and the way the notes increasingly bleed together and dissolve into sharp feedback. Notably, "Hanging Crystal Garden" is the album's shortest piece (at eight minutes) despite being the most inspired, but that makes sense given its nerve-jangling intensity. The much longer second piece is considerably calmer and more radiant (at first, anyway), almost calling to mind a restorative early morning yogic meditation to clear the mind of the previous night's cosmic horror, human sacrifice, and demon summoning.

While I do enjoy the piece's "slow-motion sunrise burning through the morning mist" feel, it definitely starts to overstay its welcome a bit, but that lull is thankfully obliterated by an incredibly strong finale of ritualistic processional drums and a mind-melting phantasmagoric feast of flanged-out drone heaviness. The remaining two pieces do not offer many fresh surprises in the wake of that opening one-two punch, but they are similarly enjoyable and the lazily undulating tapestry of strums and buzzes that forms the foundation of the title piece is particularly beautiful. While I imagine some drone heads will will find this album a bit too loose, dissonant, or one-dimensional to fully connect with, I am not one of them, as I very much appreciate Myriad Valley's single-minded and unswerving devotion to sheer buzzing physicality and transcendence through sustained psychotropic drone-age.

Listen here.