Our Daily Bread 418: University Challenged ‘Oh Temple!’

January 11, 2021

Album Review/Dominic Valvona

University Challenged ‘Oh Temple!’
(Hive Mind Records) 29th January 2021

A cosmic couriers union of transcendent, experimental and Kosmische scions the University Challenged play-on-words entitled trio of Ajay Saggar, Oli Heffernan and Kohhei Matsuda make their 2021 debut on the adroit and carefully curated Hive Mind imprint. Synonymous for its eclectic output of global releases, with albums by the late doyen of Moroccan gnawa music, Maalem Mahmoud Gania (and his son, Houssam Gania) plus volumes dedicated to Indonesian Jaipongan and the Atlas Mountains electric music of Moulay Ahmed El Hassani, Hive now expand their already amorphous perimeters to include this expansive cosmic egg of an opus.

Bringing together the holy guitar trances and dreamwave of Bhajan Bhoy and Deutsche Ashram instigator Saggar, the prolific maverick behind Ivan The Tolorable, Heffernan, and the Japanese nosieniks Bo Ningen band member Matsuda for a convergence of ambient, entrancing, dubby, psychedelic, shoegaze and Krautrock inspired drifting suites. Nailing the performances of their 2019 shows in Holland, the Oh Temple! album saves on wax the cerebral space music triumvirate’s untethered wanderings: both inwards and out. 

It begins with the post-rock phaser waves and skying transcendental furnished reference to the 4th century Greek-Christian martyr “Serenus”; a pious unfortunate known widely for his horticultural skills, fitted up for an affair he never had. That poor saint was immortalised for his stoic commitment to the Christian faith in the face of death: he was duly decapitated for his troubles. Whatever the use is here, the trio set out sonically on a vaporous ascent that reimagines the purposeful neo-classical renderings of Qluster and the Kosmische tarot mysticisms of Walter Wegmüller, whilst channelling Spiritualized’s venerations.

Closer geographically to Heffernan’s base of operations, ‘On The Banks Of The River Swale’ washes in the atavistic waters of a tributary that’s played host to a history of settlements dating back as far as Mesolithic times. Probably on Archdruid Cope’s monolithic tour, certain stone assemblages and formations lie near to the Swale. Here, we experience the running and whispery waters and psychogeography of place, as sounded by Eno, The Velvet Underground and Ash Ra Temple.

A strange sizzled and fluty resonating crispy buzz is joined by a vision of Peter Green fronting Pink Floyd on the languid cricketing termed ‘Reverse Swing’. I’m not sure what the trio were attempting musically, but to these ears it evokes a semblance of a lunar Ry Coder floating over a tropical island in space.

Another real location, mapped out this time by a dubby bubbled ghostly fog of Cousin Silas And The Glove Of Bones, Alan Vega, The Orb and The Cosmic Jokers, the Jamaican beach resort (constantly rated, I found out, as one of the world’s ten most desired beach fronts) of “Negril” (‘Choppers Over Negril’) is immortalised with a both hallucinogenic and gauzy soundtrack.  Famous for featuring in Ian Fleming’s The Man With The Golden Gun bond caper as a location for a meeting with the arch-villain assassin-for-hire Scaramanga, Negril (the “little black one” when translated from the Spanish) was named by the Spanish transgressors, who it’s believed were referring to the abundance of black eels that were found in its waters. The chopper of that full title is represented by a rotor like enveloping guitar, which in cyclonic mode fans a vapourous Rastafari atmosphere of toaster call outs and adulations.

Black Lives Matter seems to have prompted a number of tracks on this mesmeric and reverberating album epic. Reference wise anyway, with certain undertones in some titles to black culture, history: Negril perfectly happy enough no doubt without the intrusion of 15th century Spanish colonists. The Cluster arpeggiator and lunar Theremin spoke-y radient synth zapped ‘Shibboleth’ even features an interview with Malcolm X; one that focuses in and out, masked by a crackled wavy wash of effects. If I’m not mistaken (by the content) this was a pivotal moment, caught not long before his assassination in 1965. Though the eloquent orator he always was, Malcolm’s life was made a hell of a lot more dangerous as he left the anti-Semitic and arguably racist divisive Nation Of Islam, who (allegedly) carried out his murder (most of the gun men involved were members of the NoI, though some were acquitted later and the waters remain muddied as to who organised it). Moving away from the Nation’s rhetoric towards a more inclusive message, his staunch faith and protestations no less diminished, this captured dialogue is really about the failure of America in dealing with the question and freedom of its black citizens. The space drifters send this message into a celestial Kosmische, leaving interpretation and a lost moment in time out there in the universe. I could be reading too much into it all, but this track is followed by the enchanted Thomas Dinger and Cluster (again), with tonal evocations of the Spacemen 3 and The Telescopes, encrypted ‘Black Smoke’, which seems to carry over some of the mood from ‘Shibboleth’.

An efflux of dream realities, marked places of interest, histrionics and astral planning, the exclaimed Oh Temple! elevates as much as it distorts and warps the Kosmische fashioning’s of this congruous union. Consciousness floats free in a universe of expansive liquidity, on a mirage of space and ether probing trance music. Top quality and depth all the way; already a highlight of 2021 for me: expect to see this opus reach the choice end-of-year features.  (Dominic Valvona)

See also from the Monolith Cocktail Archives:

From the same label:

Houssam Gania ‘Mosawi Swiri’

Moulay Ahmed El Hassani ‘Atlas Electric’

Rodrigo Tavares ‘Congo’

From Kosmische/Krautrock sphere:

Cluster  ‘1971 – 1981’

Ash Ra Tempel ‘Ash Ra Tempel’

Can ‘Lost Tapes’

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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