Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Arica


Released 1972 on Woosoo/Audition
Reviewed by achuma, 24/11/2008ce


Nowadays Arica exists only as the Arica Institute, a school of spiritual development formed and led by Chilean mystic Oscar Ichazo. However, in its early days, two albums were produced and released in the US, presumably to increase awareness of the school. The names of the musicians involved were not given on the record sleeves, credited simply to ‘The Arica Musicians’, and enquiries through the Institute yielded no names, so until someone from the sessions comes forward with more info, we may have to assume their identities are lost to time. In a way, though, this mystery suits the remarkable music contained within these resultant grooves – timeless sounds that could have been conjured from and played by the very spirits of the Earth.
Prior to making his masterpiece of film The Holy Mountain, Alejandro Jodorowsky met Ichazo and became intrigued enough by his techniques – essentially a potent blending of esoteric knowledge and methods from around the world – to not only go through the initial intensive course of Arica mind expansion and training but to require the same of all cast and crew for the film. This undoubtedly affected the whole film, and it seems strange that Arica’s music was not used for the soundtrack, particularly in the second half, because they go together in vibe very well. Certainly, the soundtrack created by Jodorowsky, Don Cherry and Ron Frangipane has some great, evocative moments, but an Arica soundtrack could have been pure magic all the way through.

This first Arica release, a double LP, confusingly came out in two versions. The first seems to be the Woosoo version, followed by the Audition version, which had a different side 4 – both versions of side 4 will be reviewed.
The lengthy, flowing nature of the music doesn’t lend itself well to trying to describe each track in much detail, but is best described overall. The tracks are presented as an audio accompaniment to a guided meditation – explained in the liner notes – to be done lying with feet pointing towards the speakers. I’m not going to type out all the instructions here, though – you can get into it deeply without having to know the course of the meditation, and if you’re reading this I presume you don’t have the album anyway! Mostly the music oozes along like the serpent of knowledge furrowing a subtle course through the folds of your cerebral cortex, funnelling into the soul like a pure salve. At times it leans towards omming drones, at others it becomes more upbeat with percussion, keys, restrained winds and acoustic bass intertwining their melodious threads, without once becoming twee or New Agey. The closest comparison I can think of would have to be the first three albums by Between, with a hint of Edward Vesala’s ‘Satu’ album, Deuter’s ‘Aum’, Dzyan’s ‘Electric Silence’ and Bruce Palmer’s ‘The Cycle is Complete’.
The original side 4 was one long track called ‘Water Music’, and it broke the pattern by consisting solely of free jazz, albeit restrained free jazz. Although intended to be “a cleaning mechanism for the mind and the body to break the process of our habitual thought patterns”, and to provide “relaxation” when you open up to it, they must have changed their mind about this approach, because the Audition version replaced this with ‘Mantram’, which was musically more in line with the rest of the album. I think ‘Water Music’ is enjoyable and can serve its purpose, but others who don’t like free improv doodling at all may beg to differ.
You might still be able to get leftover LP copies of this from the Arica Institute, but I don’t think they’ve put it onto CD yet, unlike their second album Heaven’, which I think is even better [see separate review].


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