Life is nothingness, and nothingness is life. Greetings, friend and associates from around the globe. It is I, Terrence, American Buddhist, with a brand new review– a first for this space as it’s a live concert review.
As you know, after a privileged life as the scion to a hoop-skirt dynasty family, I renounced the pleasures of the modern world and became a Buddhist. Giving up a life of tennis, fast automobiles, and tender, soothing, resin-encrusted nodules of cannabis, I plunged deeply into suffering, nothingness and the attainment of the godhead. At my monastery in Japan I worked tirelessly with a succession of masters in order to divorce myself from the superficial world and become part of the greater universe.
Since those days I have relocated to a mountain-top retreat in Northern California, where I am free to further my studies and design my own regimen of walks, meditation, and music reviews.
But occasionally I must make a journey down to the USOUNDS office in order to set some things straight with the parsimonious editor of the moment and his gaggle of hangers-on and yes men. The first day I arrived in town the company car, a lime green 1967 Citroen DS, was being repaired so I was forced to sit around the office all day making “small talk” with assorted indie-rock rejects. Nodding sagaciously and peacefully, I produced a large bong from deep within the folds of my voluminous saffron robe and sparked bowl after bowl of excellent cannabis cup 2002 sativa. The wonderful and pleasing aromas enveloped me and I was free to nod and smile without listening to a word being said around me. Instead I focused on a Koa by 8th century master Kuei-Shan that seemed apt:
Impermanence, aging, and illness
Do not give people a set time.
One may be alive in the morning,
Then dead at night,
Changing worlds in an instant.
We are like the spring frost,
Like the morning dew
With that thought coursing through my mind, I left the office for Silver Lake, where a band called Helen Stellar was performing. Although I have devoted my life to attaining clarity in nothingness, and equality with suffering, I still have time for live music shows if they will transport me to another world and fill my soul with new feelings.
Helen Stellar is a band splitting its time between Chicago and Los Angeles. Their ethereal, expressive sound may remind some of Slowdive, but to me they sound like nothing so much as the feeling one gets minutes before the sartori arrives and your mind is filled with the blinding white light of total nothingness. Their mixture of expansive, soaring vocals, washed our guitars, ground-exploring basslines and death-from-above percussion make this band a 3-man symphony of oblique expression, with undercurrents deep enough to sink a Spanish Armada of tone. By focusing on themes larger than themselves, larger than music, their universe stretches across the cosmos and into the realm of the eternal.
The show at the Silver Lake Lounge started with dense fog, allowing the members, the audience, and even the holdover bartenders to relax inside the envelope of light and sound. Instantly the false simplicity of guitar strumming brought me to a slightly new plane of existence, as I surreptitiously puffed a small joint underneath my orange robe. As the vocals swelled and rose, joining their compatriots guitar, bass, and drums in the heady mix, I leaned back and allowed the swirling sound to fully penetrate me. The music built and destroyed, ebbed and flowed, and gave and took away in the space of a few minutes. The most famous words of the immortal Basho filled my mind:
FROG JUMPS IN
THE SOUND OF WATER …
Every soul is an old pond, filled with water, just waiting for something to jump in and activate the sounds buried deep within. Helen Stellar jumps in, I jump in, we all jump in. Outside after the show I shared a joint of Kush with my new friends, high from the music, souls invaded with the promise of old ponds, stirring under the clear Los Angeles night, sounds echoing through our minds and across the sky.
You can find out more about Helen Stellar at their website, which also features several mp3s