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NORMAL BIAS - THE SHAMAN'S ASCENT

February 28, 2011, 2:59pm

Laurence Galian and friends
The Shaman's Ascent
Released in 1986

"Within the castle of my soul/I moved slowly/room to room/gathering only that which I am told/keeping only what the light shines upon."
--from "The Island"

[audio:http://vicerecords.com/download/TheIsland.mp3\]

Sitting next to the always ubiquitous tapes of storeroom Christmas muzak at my local Salvo, I found a second wave new-age gem with home-made liner notes printed on that fancy paper they sell for résumés. The Shaman's Ascent is an early home recording made by a man identified as Laurence Galian while he was living in Jericho, NY. While I can't find anything linking him directly to the tape, I strongly suspect that this is the Laurence Galian behind Shaman's Ascent. Composer, author, spiritual teacher, and avowed magician, Galian is a busy guy. Various biographies assert his dueling credentials as both an academic artist and magick expert:

"Galian's background is suitably diverse for a magician of the Contemporary Era - he is a highly regarded Wicca priest, a member of two Dervish Orders, a much sought after dance and ballet accompanist, and was Senior Dance Accompanist in the Hofstra University Department of Drama and Dance. He honed his aural spell-casting and digital processing abilities at The University of South Florida, Adelphi University and IRCAM (Paris)."

Ah! The University of South Florida! What better place to hone one's magick powers? The Sarasota-Manatee Campus is just crisscrossed with Ley lines! The entire state is renown in covens across America for its powerful energy and abundant Whole Foods.

So what does this warlock offereth up for thine spindles? Imagine The All Saved Freak Band and Bruce Haack collaborating on the Wicker Man soundtrack. Yes, there are pan flutes. And recorders. And, yes, harps too--but, come on! What do you expect from The Shaman's Ascent? Don't focus on the obligatory woodsy new-age tropes. What's worthy of note here is Galian's open embrace of wombly synth lines, drum machines, and Ms. Nelson style oration. That and his penchant for super-nasty sissy bounce hooks:

"Dance dance dance/suck the juice juice juice/set us free free free Dionysus!"

I always wonder what sort of people get totally hammered on these Bacchanalian, do what thou wiltish philosophies. Maybe it's uptight guys from upstate NY struggling against their own latent uptightness?

[audio:http://vicerecords.com/download/Shaman1.mp3\]

In the liner notes, Laurence offers special thanks to "C and M, The Mighty Powers, Lady Miw and "Enchantments," Lord Icarus,Ishtar, Mark, Keith for his conception of the "Moonlight," and Lou Castle." The thanks paid to Keith seem maybe a little misguided as Keith has done little more than arrange Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" for Arp. Maybe Keith is Laurence's pet name for Ludwig Van when they meet up on the astral plane? I don't know.

The tape's notes close with a Wagner quote followed by that old Wiccan salutation "Blessed Be!" A whacked juxtaposition if there ever was one--proto-Nazi/crystal healing--but maybe that's the mixed broth a Shaman proffers.

Normal Bias is a new column by Vice Reviews Editor Alex Dunbar dedicated to reviewing no label and micro label cassette releases found at the Salvation Army.