The holiday season can be a meat wad. For many, myself included, a literal meat wad. Weighed down by excessive intake of mortadella, pork roast, red wine & Patron, I came into twenty-nineteen in a haze of mental and physical holiday abuse. The saccharin disruption of all routine life makes me nostalgic and ill for memories of family members passed on, or an ex-lover now reduced to a meaningless social media profile. I’m not a Grinch in the strictest terms, but there’s a heaviness to the ole good tidings I need to work on making lighter.
This is where “Sound To See” by Jesse Gallagher came in. The music somehow chose me as it can if you let it, when the time is right. My quest to lengthen my emotional fuse was a prayer answered I didn’t consciously send. I have a feeling that’s how Jesse Gallagher likes it. Making people lighter, one random listener at a time.
The album is pure instrumental and filled with a mystic quality never overstated. The opener “Nidra in the sky with Ayler” is the most stimulating title on the record. Clearly a play on the fab four tune but with a yogic twist. “Nidra” a yogic state meets with one can only assume Albert Ayler, the free-jazz saxophonist. Swells of cello and a sprinkling of watery electro jingles cascade. It serves as a perfect appetizer to the “Olmsted Pond.” A drum beat kicks in with a snare that sounds like desert rock pounding on desert floor laying the plate for some Beatles-esque chord changes and some patient and overdriven electric guitar swells.
By track three I’m ready to go across the universe as the jam of “The Weed” comes floating in on a bong hit of sunflower funk.
“The Immortal Soul” is a perfect amalgamation of so many psychedelic styles and sounds. Vibes of Jerry Garcia clean leads bubbling overtop a river of Native American chants as cello weaves a repetitive melody.
“Glory to the Gardner” mixes classic synth sounds with a futuristic electro bottom end and more delectable Jerry-esque flutters. The clatter of eastern percussion glues the vibe together and only hints at “jam band” status, and thankfully, never goes there.
“Loneliest Road in America (US 50)” has a West African guitar tone before an echo of reggae drops into a deep groove that could be a traditional blues. It climbs with psychedelic 60’s fuzz guitar mixing with the snap of clean strings. This is how eclectic “Sound to See” is throughout. Describing one song we traverse the globe.
Figures on the next track a Daft Punk styled intro grooves straight into the milky way with “Hackney Carriage House Disco.” Classic slap funk bass centerpieces the movement of synth and string.
The record closes with Gallagher’s take me to church moment in “Memories of Station Tomorrow.” Radio dial turning from static into the band swinging into a climbing chromatic progression as synth drones like a horn. If you are indeed supposed to see things while listening, then I saw a smiling child and his golden retriever Buster inside a translucent orb ripping through space and time en route to paradise unknown.
I caught up with Jesse to rap about all things “Sound to See.”
Boston Hassle: “Sound to See” is a very meditative record. How do you tap into that part of yourself and translate it into a song?
Jesse: I have been studying & practicing meditation/ yoga since 2001, & that same year, at the age of 21, I became a vegetarian ~ in those 18 years since, I’ve been both lifted me to gorgeous tranquil snowy mountain peaks and also tossed overboard to be battered & broken against the rocks at sea… One thing I have learned in all this rubbing & scrubbing is that the meditation & yoga always gave me a direct way to connect back with the “i am”, the source, the guru, the real, the glowing orb of light inside us that defies our defined time & space. Quieting my mind in meditation and giving myself time & space to allow my ego and sense of time & space to slip away has been essential to my heath, happiness, creativity etc… This is not to say all the music & art I’ve made or the life I’ve lived in the past 18 years has been meditative. I’ve gotten so jacked up in the past performing for crowds with Apollo Sunshine that I’ve bashed a microphone into my own face until I bled. So for me, learning to harness & soften that raging Kundalini energy flowing thru my spine from root to crown has been quite a journey. Over the years, I’ve been sat down repeatedly & shown the brightest light, the truest truths & the most joyous emotions live vibrantly inside us always and the state of contentment, love & peace we all seek on a deep level can be unveiled by practicing union with …. ˚ • º ≈
Songs on this new album like “Nidra in the Sky with Ayler” are meant to be a meditation piece… Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation technique that by tightening & relaxing each isolated muscle in the body and calming the breath and mind, you are able to slip into a state of timeless, formless awareness… I learned this practice from my guru Swami Satchidananda and there is a beautiful youtube video of him leading a “Yoga Nidra” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zwNSze3QBg …. (The Ayler is for cosmic sax legend Albert Ayler)
I am about to release another new album (this week) of meditative, ambient music I created for an online series of “restorative yoga” classes by my yoga mentor, Satya Greenstone. This album is to be released under my sanskrit given name, SADHU and the album is called “Yoga with Satya”…. under Satya’s guidence, “Sadhu” became a certified Hatha Yoga teacher in 2016 & this has certainly influenced my music & the concentration power & stamina it takes to create it….
Boston Hassle: Can you give any hints or clues to the meaning of the title?
Jesse: This album was commissioned by the YouTube audio library. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZHG0fppT9U The primary objective of this project was to create 10 instrumental pieces that “content creators” could use royalty free for their videos. I was given complete freedom and told to “get as psychedelic as I want” but to keep the pieces 3 minutes or less. I named the album “SOUND TO SEE” for this reason, but also I feel that many of these songs, with eyes closed can spark the imagination to see colors, remember new memories, create vivid dreams etc…
Boston Hassle: The musicians on the record are unreal. The arrangements are tight and there’s always a forward motion. How did you get so many people together and make a ten track record in two months!? That is a feat unto itself.
Jesse: The craziest part is, my Dad had open heart surgery to replace his aorta the same week I was given this job (with a timeline of 6 weeks)… So I had to pack up my entire recording studio and all my instruments in the city and bring them down 4 flights of stairs and set them all up at my Dad’s house while I balanced the tasks of cooking and caring for him and writing & recording this album… The day after I brought him home from the hospital was the day in Andover that everyone’s gas lines were exploding & we had to shut down all electrical power for several days & exist with kerosene lanterns… The process had so many insane hurdles, but being given an opportunity to be payed to create harmonic sound is such a blessing and my will made the way and I was able to create something I’m proud of in such a short time period… (also my Dad has had a full recovery!)
Thank you for compliments on the arrangements.. Most of these compositions were built spontaneously layer by layer, most often with myself playing all the instruments. There are several incredible musicians that came over and laid a few overdubs down for me. These added textures from my Nightime Sunshine homies Steve Fell, Luther Gray & Paul Dilley, the drone cello of April Faith Slaker, slap bass of “Dutch” McLean and the gorgeous piano runs by lilypad owner, Gill Aharon took the album to to a whole new sonic level. Collaboration is such a beautiful thing!!
Boston Hassle: Any plans of performing these songs live with the ensemble?
Jesse: Hmm… I haven’t thought of that.. I played close to a thousand shows with Apollo Sunshine, so for the last many years I’ve approached live shows kind of like a Tarot reader… I don’t perform unless someone asks me to play… and because I keep a fairly low profile, I don’t get asked to perform much these days… When I do perform, I play as “Nightime Sunshine” with Steve & Luther… I think learning versions of “Glory to the Gardner”, “Memories Station of the Future” and “The Immortal Soul” would be a blast and I’m sure they will make their way into our live show….
Boston Hassle: I feel like George Harrison would love this album. Any specific influences to this record?
Jesse: Kay Gardner, Haruomi Hosono, Satyajit Ray, Iasos, Hiroshi Yoshimura, Woo, James Brown, Holger Czukay, Daevid Allen, Frank Lorentzen, Terry Riley, Gail Laughton, Joel Andrews, Moondog, Jonny Trunk, Bob Bitner, Pete Dello, Aphex Twin, Galt MacDermot, Bruce Haack, Mark Motherbaugh, Biff Rose, Franz Schubert etc…
So many, many more.. and those are only musical inspirations. If you could isolate the drum track on “The Immortal Soul” you’d hear me singing a mantra to the mystical “Jesus is my lord & savior, Jesus is my soul provider, Jesus is my one & only” … that’s the foundation of the funk on that track… Other tracks have different inspirations, “Glory to Gardeners” was a meditation on the beautiful people all over the world working & growing with the earth to create abundant harvests… “Allegations of Investigations” is a meditation on the daily news cycle and how “serious” and intense this live drama can feel. “Loneliest Road in America” is putting to sound the feeling & sights of driving the old pony express in Nevada and Utah at night. “The Weed” is a tribute to the joys of cannabis, “Maryandra’s Waltz” was written as a dance piece for ballerinas…. “Memories Station of Tomorrow” samples WJIB am 740 and is a fantasy recreation of a bop jazz tune mixing and swirling with devo-esque punk to make a future nostalgia sound…
Boston Hassle: Do you have a specific intention for your music?
Jesse: My intention is to live a life of service, and over the years I have learned that my service to the world is musical & spiritual in nature. The yoga & meditation helps me clean my vibrations & consequently the tones that flow thru me, have a harmonic resonance that in it’s own psychedelic way is healing to those who it resonate with it… I’ve had times in my life where Screeching Weasel or Les Rallizes Denudes felt healing to me… so who knows how that mystery works.. I have always been very attracted to harmony and I believe very much in the concepts touched on by Plato & others when they speak of “Music of the Spheres”
Boston Hassle: Are you aiming to heal through sound?
Jesse: I suppose I am, yes…. even when I wrote the Apollo Sunshine song “Brotherhood of Death”, a drug and alcohol abused metaphor for the blood rituals of the skull & bones society, the main point I was trying to get across was “TO LOVE!” & “EVOLVE” from that way of being.. That I had to scream it over a wall of distorted screams was just the way the music muse took me to speak my peace & communicate with my audience.
Boston Hassle: I felt a spiritual vibe that certainly affected me in a positive way, beyond consumption of something catchy.
Jesse: For me, music is tapping into the very source of all creation. From blackness & nothing to a single tone and color, to more complex chords, harmonics and the rainbow spectrum… If on the first day, God said on the first day “Let there be Light”, then the SOUND to say that came even before the LIGHT ≈ !! OM OM OM ~