High Mountain Tempel - Pacific Sky Burial (Axaxaxas mlo) [Lotus House - 2008]This release on Lotus House Records is a black-bottomed CD-R presented in a nice high quality paper wallet-sleeve, with attractive silk screened gold printing. My copy is numbered as 137/200, so it's also a "limited edition" release. Kind of reminds me of the old "if a tree falls in the woods and nobody's there to see it, does it make a sound" expression. Every CD-R is more or less a limited release now. Hand numbering a release which will only sell out if it's given away to all of the band's friends and relatives has become commonplace, thus cheapening the idea of a "limited" release.
The label description describes this disc as the "kind of music Eno would make for a Philip K. Dick film set in Tibet". There's also the inevitable Krautrock name dropping, and, and one would expect, thanks to Acid Mother's Temple on the information card, since member Eric Nielsen has played with them (as well as Highrise!). Thing is, there's some good minutes here or there interspersed between aimless doodling on Pacific Sky Burial (Axaxaxas mlo), but just because you use a synth now and then, you can't claim to be Eno.
The whole deal seems intended to be some sort of transcendental trip to another dimension, or perhaps alternate reality (hence the Philip K. Dick reference), and there's nothing wrong with that. Spiritual journeys over the years have made for some of greatest recordings in the history of the medium. The thing that gets me about Pacific Sky Burial is that it comes across as a kind of manufactured spirituality. As if merely being on the appropriate hallucinogens and having the intent to create something "deep" is in itself enough. It comes across as half-baked and half-assed.
I'm not saying that on a good day this band isn't possible of hitting on all cylinders. I won't count them out. Hell, Saint Julian himself waxes poetic on his Head Heritage website about their latest release, and more often than not, his recommendations are spot on. But since this is my only exposure to HMT's music, I have to say this is a pretty muddled affair.
I realise I've said all of this without really describing their sound. Basically, it's a lot of what sounds to me like guitar feedback, scraping of things, the occasional synth and vocal incantations. After reading the previous sentence, you might think that those sounds would add up to something interesting. After all, there's been tons of albums (many reviewed on this very website) that have used these elements to very good effect. HMT, at least on this release, just don't mesh well. There's nothing to draw you into this music. The improvisations reach no revelation where everything achieves some kind of unity. As a result, it comes across a sterile, disjointed experience. Very nice packaging though, Kudos on that! Erwin Michelfelder