Within the last few years, I’ve developed a general manner of reading books such as Mark Goodall‘s Gathering of the Tribe: Music and Heavy Conscious Creation (out now via Headpress). When you’ve a thick book, consisting of many different subsections, and under each subsection a series of essays, you just have to work through it in fits and starts.
What I’m trying to say is that Goodall and and the contributors he’s lined up are going to lay some very deep ideas on you, and they’re going to cover a lot of ground. You’re going to want to allow yourself some time to process it as you go along, or you’re going to fall prey to my usual problem — namely, 2/3 to 4/5 of the way through, you peter out, set the book aside, and move along to something with a linear narrative.
Give into the vibe Gathering of the Tribe is throwing off. Jump around, read the things which interest you most, then double back to see what else might be worth reading. “Sorcery and the Cinema” will turn you on to some great visuals, as well as auditory freak-outs, but “The Law of Octaves” will surprise the hell out of you with the Satanic ritual LPs it describes. The entirety of this books gives off a sense of the freaky, the weird, the fact that music can express something beyond “baby baby,” and penetrate your brain through your ear canals.
Let yourself get surprised, but make sure you save the latter chapters for after preparing yourself with a general overview, because that’s when shit gets super-bizarre. You title a chapter “Mindfuckers,” and you better deliver. It does. Some of the artists presented are woefully obscure, to the point of existing more as outsider art than what one would normally classify as music.
Should you choose to follow my advice and bounce around from point to point, the various guest authors provide interesting tangents, and their analysis of any given topic gives any chapter a deeper or broader sense of history or context. Simon Trafford’s analysis of Bathory’s Blood Fire Death blossoms into an overview of Viking metal, whereas Mark Reeve’s take on the Beatles White Album is an object lesson in numerology and following an idea to its illogical conclusion.
Let it not be said that the guests segments are the highlights — no, no, nay, nay. Goodall’s work allows for him to connect the dots from artist to artist and chapter to chapter, but it’s also a sense of levity that smooths the rough edges of what could be some eye-rolling conclusions. The author recognizes the absurdity of some of the musical contradictions. An excellent case in point comes early on, when discussing Neil Ardley’s Music of the Spheres:
“But this is the only track on the LP that remains elusive and harmonically complex. For some reason Ardley choose to express the other aspects of celestial music through the more restrictive framework of the jazz funk medium.”
It’s Goodall’s matter-of-fact style, coupled with an ability to describe music vividly and directly that leaves you wanting to seek out some of these recordings, post-haste. The take on the Upsetters had me ransacking the bins at local record shops in hopes of finding a copy of 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle, and even the music with which I was already familiar was presented in a fresh context with analysis that gave me a new view on the material.
Preview Mark Goodall’s Gathering of the Tribe: Music and Heavy Conscious Creation below.