This is my first Raajmahal cassette. My first listen of this project, one of many, involving Pat Murano (he of the No-Neck Blues Hammer (I kid I kid…), Decimus and the excellently curated Kelippah record label) who happens to be one of the nicest Brooklyn-based musicians (in case you didn’t know, most of ‘em are massive self-centered a**holes who take themselves way too seriously. Yeah! here’s lookin’ at you yah smug talentless f*cks!) I have ever met and shared a stage with. Raajmahal are the duo of Carla Baker (Flower Orgy) and Pat Murano.
Both sides of this magnificent piece of plastic containing a double-sided reel of cassette tape, released by the New Camp imprint, are of a new genre that I’m going to call: rainforest spiritual enhancement music. On this release the music sounds like a long lost field recording from some remote island in the South Indian ocean. You can actually feel the humidity in the air while listening.
The titles for each side, Charybdis and Scylla respectively, refer to mythical sea monsters from Greek mythology. Charybdis was responsible for creating whirlpools while Scylla was a six-headed monster. Both were considered sea hazards located close to each other and therefore responsible for sinking ships. To be “between Charybdis and Scylla” is the origin of the expressions “between the devil and the deep blue sea” and “between a rock and a hard place” among others.
Side A, or “Charybdis”, starts off with a singing/humming female voice, which in my cis-male arrogance I have concluded is Carla’s, accompanied by the plucking of a metallic sounding instrument. You can hear the wind, the rustling of leaves, the chirping of birds, the pores on skin opening up in the humid heat. The recording slowly warps and other sounds seep-in creating an additional layer of music. Heavily delayed electric guitar? synths? It’s irrelevant because we don’t need to know. Only what all this does to the senses is important. This is followed by pleasant acoustic guitar playing and the resurgence of that voice again. Very comforting. Things then turn slightly more free-form and you can hear the sound of picking and scraping a string instrument… possibly a resonator guitar or autoharp.
The “Scylla’ side starts off with epic synth lines and that beautiful voice humming along. Very dramatic. Big expansive horizon movie scene-score potential. Like the other side, you can hear a lot of background noise, as if this were all being performed live and outdoors. The track slowly fades, becoming more and more distant. Then the sounds of a flute and echoes of the voice… calling you back… they then again start to fade under ominous abstract electronic tones. Ringing distorted electronics surface, then the voice returns, and then a percussive slushing sound kicks in. Cut. The track then closes with an extended breather… a folky tune… where the wind, melancholy acoustic guitar chords and a beautiful singing voice bring you back from the dark…
A very fine release if you ask me. You can pick this one up and other fine releases on the New Camp label here.