2004 was a year of many great discoveries for me. Davenport's massive coming out party (by way of more releases than I can count) was sitting at the top of my list for a good part of the year, but that changed a month or so ago. Make no mistake, Davenport are simply one of the finest bands around - that much is true. But last month, my mind was melted completely when a package from Australia's MusicYourMindWillLoveYou collective showed up. Centered around an Aussie named Michael Donnelly, this group of musicians are doing some truly mind altering stuff. Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood are the lynchpin, though.
"Animal Speak" is a masterful psychedelic primal declaration. It screams "We are here, and we're covered in mud." Everything on this sprawling album is extracted and returned from the earth. Acoustic instruments make up the majority of sound here, but various percussive elements add to the tribal feel of the album. It all blends together so perfectly that it's easy to get swept up in its roaring gloary.
Donnelly is the key, however. With BOTOS, he makes it all happen. His drumming lays the foundation for everything else to happen, and his skill is undeniable. Sparse clatter finds a constant rhythm somehow; there's elements of jazz inspiration floating throughout his playing, which adds to the originality of the music. Cellos and other bowed instruments add tranquility to this chaotic sea. With so many different things happening it once, it's amazing that this music is so fluid and cohesive. As the radio static of "I Would Rather Live On the Sun" fades in, low frequency drones emanate from a cello. High-pitched squeals are barely audible above the murky sludge. When the drums come in, your foot starts tapping. There's a feeling of being lost in the Australian outback while a massive thunderstorm is brewing in the distance. The skies start changing from bright blue to grey, and the wind picks up as Donnelly pounds his toms. Keyboards and guitars shimmer and glow in the background as the rain pours down. Drenched, you seek cover underneath a lone, massive tree.
Based on the title alone, one might confuse "Quetzacoatl's Return" with a song by the Mountain Goats. But as soon as it begins, it's obvious that is not the case. Low end electronic drones ride over the tops of waves created by Donnelly's tribal drumming. This is like swimming in pristine blue water, floating weightlessly underneath the surface. You can see for miles and your whole body is tingling from the cold bath. For something with so much sludge, this is beautiful.
The sister songs, "The Light of Life" and "The Life of Light," are the core of this masterpiece. The former features Japanese (maybe Chinese?) samples on top of an acoustic based piece. It slowly devolves into a hypnotic monsoon. Donnelly starts singing in an emotion-filled voice. Its got the feel of a funeral procession for a fallen hero. There are massive amounts of organic quality to this track as well, which make it even better. It's magic. The latter piece is the most melodic piece on the album. Field recordings give it a wooded feel. Again, Donnelly's drumming takes center stage, dropping a perfect foundation for the picked acoustic guitars. Various wind instruments and, again, Donelly's voice add depth and texture to this already packed song. It's fucking beautiful and brings to mind some of the more melodic aspects of The Ivytree. Bowed guitars add more layers to the mix, and as Donnelly "mmm"s and "ahh"s throughout, you are stolen away on a fantastic voyage through the Australian forests. Leaf gnomes and woodland creatures dance in unison as they celebrate the sun and the earth. The only thing left to do is cover yourself in mud and dance with them. This is one of the best pieces of music I've heard all year.
Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood are so many things at once. This surgical psych folk sludge is one of the most original and stunning releases I've heard all year. Whether they're exploring the ancient history of their lands through organic romps, slowing things down with electronic drones, or even dropping acid and flying in the clouds like on the psychedelic album closer, "Sericule," they are channelling pure fucking magic. This will melt your skull and fry your brain. In the end, all the pieces are glued together to form a better, more delicious whole. Essential. 9/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)