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Qa’a – Sang

Màgia Roja

Qa'a - SangThe era of the late ’60s/early ’70s has been whitewashed through the rosy lenses of hindsight. Baby boomers waste no time in reminding us theirs was the greatest generation, with the best music. The era where everything was being invented, the future was being ushered in. It was all happening, man. This perspective distorts the fact that for much of his life, Jimi Hendrix was playing small clubs, like any indie band working today, and the only people who were flying the flag for the Black Sabbath and Velvet Underground and The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart early were a handful of wide-eyed, speed-induced maniacs of dubious sanity.

On Qa’a‘s Sang, the Catalan collective take the brown acid back to Woodstock. They remind us that not only were The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and The Flying Burrito Brothers from San Francisco; so were Chrome and the San Francisco Tape Music Center. They remind us that the German art collectives that were conjuring the early krautrock grooves in idyllic, rural cabins, like Amon Düül and Harmonia, were probably half-starved and totally deranged; modern day ascetics, bingeing on oscillators and sine waves like chanting the 90 billion names of god. Qa’a bring together the ritualistic groove and utopian optimism that was much of the mainstream version of the ’60s; and bring back the dystopia, the paranoia, the drug burn out, the wild, untamed visions.

Because Sang is not a re-creation of some ’60s simulacra. Not the soundtrack to some Haight-Ashbury Westworld. Victor Hurtado (AKA Huan), the lynchpin of Qa’a, is no throwback. Instead, he’s somebody who has taken the spirit of the ’60s, the question, the mysticism, the FREEDOM, and internalized it. So while Sang has plenty of lengthy, exploratory kosmische jamming with a motorik groove, these are intercut with moments of white-hot static and squall, like something from a Nurse With Wound (whom Huan has collaborated with live) or a Merzbow record and jagged sheets of “White Kross” atonal guitar scree, that reminds of nothing so much as Glenn Branca, Thurston Moore and the No Wave. Sang traces a continuity through three decades of exploratory, visionary, futurist music; the true id of the modern age.

Speaking of Nurse With Wound, it’s an interesting touchstone, as Qa’a could be seen as the musical subconscious of Steven Stapleton‘s infamous list that came with NWW’s first record. It combined proto-metal with musique concrète, with early synthesists, with wacky library records. It is a true representation that there was so much more to music of the ’60s and ’70s than the whitewashed history book rendition. This spirit will serve you well while listening to Sang. It’s MASSIVE, a triple-LP that clocks in at 100 minutes, without a hummable melody or hook on the horizon. Huan chants through a reverb box like some demented, insectile space monk, while drums topple and tumble in true ritualistic fashion. The guitars are sometimes close to catchy, with something approximating “riffs”, although detuned and out there, like on “L’Ombra del temple,” which sounds like The Magic Band playing space-age ballads underwater.

The jammier songs tend to start off relatively stable, before taking off into regions unknown; strange portals to unimagined bardos. Qa’a remind us that improvised music is ritualistic in nature, and a right proper visionary state can be achieved as you ride the music like a silver rocket. Qa’a will open all manner of strange vistas in thine mind’s eye. Take “Elecció en el laberint (mossega decididament) Hex: fi del ritual,” which could be the sound of watching a Tibetan ritual through a CCTV system in very bad fidelity; or the anti-gravity space western that is “Tornar a la terra”. That one’s a proper groove, and is not a bad introduction for the merely curious.

My favorite moments on Sang are the noise interludes, however; truly unique for a krautrock-infused kosmische record. It brings a true feeling of exploration and sonic adventure, beyond the standard song structures and rock instrumentation. It conjures something NEW; new cyberpunk daydreams for digital eyes, post-industrial folk music, from the outer reaches of the rock continuum. The static and spume is delicately wrapped in reverb, glistening flange and phase, which gives the feeling of watching a tape that is seriously mangled, creating all manner of technicolor, psychotropic longueurs that you can return to, again and again.

Qa’a don’t get the love and respect that they deserve in their native Spain. True psych-out wighead visionary mystics are never a mainstream flavor. For those that dig avant-rock, free noise, true futurism; for those that remember the ’60s and the ’70s, both good and bad, let’s remedy that fact. Sang was the vinyl of the month for Julian Cope‘s final Druidion column, and that alone should say enough.

More noise in rock! More freedom! More adventure! Here’s to strange rituals and unimagined vistas.

-J Simpson-

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