Lichens – The Psychic Nature of Being

The Psychic Nature of Being

Situation one: you’re alone, walking down an empty street. For some reason, you’ve been drenched in water and your clothes are a bit disheveled. You look as though you’ve just gotten out of a fight and you’re out of breath. The moon is hovering overhead overbearingly, as it shines its light upon you and casts the most ominous of shadows. As you stumble along, Lichens’ The Psychic Nature of Being begins to play.

Situation two: you’re in a deserted city, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The town is up in flames behind you and you’re walking away from it all in slow motion. Heat is resonating from the sand-covered ground. You have straps of bullets across both of your shoulders, you’ve been shot in the thigh and bicep, and you’re holding a revolver in your right hand and a sawed off shotgun in your left. As the wind blows through your hair, Lichens’ The Psychic Nature of Being begins to play.

These are the two most unfortunate, but fitting times Robert Lowe’s ambient drones could start. In situation one, you realize that there’s a killer on the loose that you just nearly escaped by swimming across a vast bay. In situation two, you just survived a gunfight that claimed the life of your wife and daughter and left you thirsty for vengeance. While it all seems overly dramatic and cliché, Lichens is the perfect soundtrack for most Hollywood thrillers.

When Robert Lowe isn’t collaborating with the likes of TV On the Radio and Castanets, he uses Lichens as his personal escape and experiment. His latest release, The Psychic Nature of Being, is a mass of bass drones, twangy guitars, and eerie vocal crescendos. And, as an improvised, one-shot deal, the album shows the genius rolling around in Lowe’s head.

“Kirilian Auras” is a lumbering, 11-minute colossus of sound. Robert Lowe uses vocal loops throughout the entire track to add a nearly divine sound. The track feels as though you’ve walked into a Buddhist monastery during the middle of prayer. After nearly four minutes, a hand-plucked acoustic guitar blazes through the chants in Desperado-esque fashion. The western feel of the guitar spurts adds a new dimension to the song.

“Shore Line Scoring” and “You are Excrement if You Can Turn Yourself into Gold” follow suit. They both begin with creepy vocal samples before the guitars and bass take hold of the forefront.

While Lichens offers a genuinely unique approach to ambient music, Lowe’s sound quickly becomes monotonous and played out. All three tracks on The Psychic Nature of Being seem to blend together and not in that Lowe-is-really-good-at-sequencing kind of way. With each track possessing the same demeanor and structure, the entire album seems like one big track that goes nowhere in the end.

Lichens’ The Psychic Nature of Being truly is quite an accomplishment. As an improvised one-attempt piece, it shows true potential and a great understanding for ambient as a whole. Unfortunately, it hits the same pitfalls that nearly all improvised music does: a tendency towards the monotonous and a lack of structure and planning. In the long run, through, as long as you don’t find yourself in a situation that would make Quentin Tarantino make a movie about you, Lichens is great ambient music.