Sweetland, Vine & The Forefathers Of The New Millennium - Light Shining In The Distance

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Zemira
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 73:52:00

Listening to Vine Sweetland & The Forefathers Of The New Millennium's Light Shining In The Distance is like being transported back to the sixities, listening to some (perhaps) drug enhanced pseudo-philosopher pontificate to a crowd of drug enhanced followers, and doing so while drug enhanced musicians somehow manage to play a cohesive, yet psychedelic, backdrop of music. I can almost see large, plush, faux-satin covered pillows spread out on a floor of rugs and blankets, bodies stretched out in languid relaxation, strips of silky fabric hanging floor to ceiling in muted oranges, reds, purples... a smoky haze filling the air. Can you dig it, man? (I may even be "seeing" a scene from a movie from or set in the 60s, I don't know*).

The speaker in this case is Vine Sweetland, one of America's most recognized street poets. In addition to vocals, he plays piano, tambura, six-string electric guitar, magic harp, tambourine, rain stick, chimes, and cymbals. He's joined by a numerous group of musicians, featuring no fewer than 22 performers throughout the track's 73-plus minutes, playing sitars, violin, banjo, congas, bells of various types, acoustic guitars, santoor, dijeridu, trumpet, tabla, marimba, chimes, and more. One of those musicians is Rahul Sakyaputra, who is a world reknown sitarist and who, the bio says, "studied under Baba Alla Uddin Khan, the greatest Indian musician and preceptor of this century."

Sweetland doesn't speak throughout the whole release, but at various points during the narrative, which if the text on the second page of the booklet is any guide, is a concept "album" about the last butterfly. It reads: "A dying guru inspires a young caterpillar with his final vision of life's ambition. Crawling from the window sill out into the jungles of tribulation she pursued wisdom and understanding. The trials of her existence offer friendship and folly, heartache and horror, as he acknowledges her destiny: that she has become the last butterfly born." (Can we read an ecological message in that? Or? a butterfly flaps her wings?etc.).

There is but one track, broken up into sections, on this release. The varying textures reveal the caterpillar/butterfly's journey, and musically it is often ambient and atmospheric, mostly with a distinctly Indian flavour (as in India). And certainly instrumentation plays a large role in that.

In a nutshell, what you can expect is mellow, dreamily psychedelic passages mixed with closer energetic and sometimes frenetic passages, and, of course, the spoken word passages with a more atmospheric background ? with the occasional rock section. Because the sections are not marked, though the each has a name, it's hard to relate a section to anything but it's time code. Though having some sort of time code index would be helpful, just so as to follow along a bit as you're listening. But it's meant to be listened to all of a piece, an experience, rather than in sections. You're meant to be immersed in it totally, riding along an experience. Of course, by its very nature, that requires a time investment, which may mean, unless this style of music is your particular passion, you may not play it very often.

Some notes as I was listening: The suite begins with a throbbing heart sound and lots of sparse percussion, before the sounds of the jungle emerge (a yelling elephant, chirping birds). This provides the setting. Later in the piece, we get Indian-like rhythms with a female voice chanting over sitar and other stringed instruments, with minimal percussion. Another section is a flute led, mellow passage, with male voices singing subtly over harp. Floating in the background, a bit of violin can be heard. There comes a point about a third of the way through where I thought of Jim Morrison, and of "The End" specifically, though it is mostly due to Sweetland's cadence here. This thought comes again later, as Sweetland speaks/sings. Sweetland's voice has the same deep richness as Morrison's. A nice brassy trumpet comes in at about the 38 minute mark, but lasts all too briefly. The sonicscapes give way to a rocking and wild electric guitar led section that doesn't quite recall Hendrix, but he does come to mind by association. Here the guitar tone is distorted and fat, sounding huge in a small space. Behind him the band play a rockin' beat (this may perhaps be the section "A Teratosis At The Great Freak-Out"). It's catchy and danceable, getting quite bubbly when organ takes over? it's quite energetic and heart pounding. The following section evokes Hendrix much more readily, certainly in the tighter distorted guitar phrases. Though just as much I thought of maybe War? certainly there's a bit of funk in there. Some passages are quite beautiful, such as the piano and acoustic guitar (with what sounds like gurgling water feature) at about 26 minutes in.

The most "overplayed" moment comes right at the end, with dramatically crying and yelling voices of "Decomposition," that sound as if they are from some badly acted late-60s/early-70s disaster movie? you know the type ? Towering Inferno for example, only in this flick, the people have been gassed or something. In the context of the story, we imagine that the butterfly has died ? they don't live long. The multitude of voices suggest that perhaps her death signals the death of others? a metaphor. A butterfly dies?

One must listen to the whole thing to get the full effect; a review can only skim the surface, provide touchstones. But, it's an interesting release, with very good performances, that won't be for everyone. If your tastes run to world music and ambient, or rather ambient world music, then you will find a lot to enjoy and like about Light Shining?, even though the palette does vary from that.

*It's not a flashback, that much I can tell you..., having been born in '67 to parents who were far from being "hippies"? though we did have these large, dusky pea-green pillows?

Light Shining In The Distance (73:52): Ambitions - Equinox Breeding: The Potential Of Immortals & Insects - Leaf Ride On The Niranjana - The Absence Of Windows/CRCL - Sayer Of The Mango - Light Shining In The Distance - The Vision Of Realization - Ode To The Caterpillar Of Guru Esoh Promatem - Leave Sanity's Door ? Tangentia - Closing Of the Pearl Cocoon ? Eventide - Odyssey Of Discernment: Free As The Wind Through The Web - 25: The Breathing Cathedral/A Teratosis At The Great Freak-Out - First Flutter - Pleasures At The Pollinia Bazaar - From The Lips Of The Lotus Leaf - The Breath Of Autumn's Child/Roll Of Thunder - Charm: A Peacock Siren's Claw - The Translucent World Of Unclaimed Illusions - Ramshackle Shanty: Indra Sandal Oil Lamp - Allure: Task Of The Ruby - From Within Nothingness Awaits Nothingness - Raga Omega Flight - A Titali Named Truth ? Decomposition - The Guide

Loghman Adhami ? violin
Steven W Barrera ? banjo
Dhyanesh Bhalt ? cabasa, tambourine
Daniel Bishop ? organs, vocals
Greg Dahl ? saxophone
Javier Diaz ? congas, claves, mambo bell, cowbell, big and small cha cha bells
Roger Gillespie ? drums, gongs
Rupesh Kotacha ? santoor
Gary S Montemer ? four string electric bass
Takeshi Rishimoto ? six string acoustic guitar
Michael Olson ? ten string acoustic guitar
Purvi Pathak ? tambura, cymbals, tambourine
Vibhav Pathak ? tabla, naal, triangle, cymbals
Preast ? dijeridu, vocals
Rahul Sakyaputra ? sitar, tabla, buffalo drum, tambourine
Anju Shaky ? vocals
Budha Shri ? vocals
Todd Simon ? trumpet, flugelhorn
Vine Sweetland ? vocals, piano, tambura, six string electric guitar, magic harp, tambourine, rain stick, chimes, cymbals
Rob Terrell ? six string electric guitar, six string acoustic guitar
Vigo ? cello
Vivienne ? flute
Ron Wagner ? tabla, marimba, mridangam, chimes, talam, tambourim, diarch, gongs

Light Shining In The Distance (1999)

Genre: Other

Origin VA

Added: March 28th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1043
Language: english


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