VagusNerve - Lo Pan [Utech Records - 2009]The almost all-black cover art and Chinese characters on the cover, as well as the guitar glittering in the gloom on the back of the sleeve, led me to believe I was about to be sucked into Keiji Haino / Fushitsusha territory. Wonderful! — Well, that’s not where I ended up, although I can’t complain about the trip I did go on.
“Trip” is probably the right word: this is a psychedelic experience not all that far removed from an Acid Mothers Temple wall-o’-guitars side project. It’s a mixture of guitar texture—sometimes soft, sometimes fierce—with looped samples and other occasional bits of electronics. Call it “close listening”, the sort of music where at first listen you think you have the whole thing down pat but concentrating on it reveals a great many other things going on, and not just because of the interplay between the most obvious elements in the mix.
As the sleeve notes explain, the “Lo Pan” is a sort of compass used in Chinese astrology to perform divinations—something I’m familiar with courtesy of my own fascination with Asia generally. It’s the sort of thing where I guess we’re inclined not to draw an explicit connection between the music and the thing being described (much as we might with, say, your average Aube album) and instead just freely create whatever connections we deem appropriate between the music and its subject.
That said, the notes go on to describe a bizarre scenario where the guitarist (Li Jianhong) encountered a giant lo pan in the forest and used it in a UFO-summoning ritual. Hence this record, I suppose, which does indeed sound like a thousand spaceships congregating in the forest and beaming up the unsuspecting for a quick trip ‘round the local galactic cluster. It’s probably also fitting (or at the very least funny) that a number of the samples used are from the sound-effects library used for the original Star Trek series. Next time VagusNerve and crew are taking off for another flight, though, count me in.Serdar Yegulalp