Album Review: Psyberspace by Black Tempest

I first came across Black Tempest some time ago through his excellent split release with the Dead Sea Apes, entitled ‘The Sun Behind The Sun‘, and since then he has put out a series of great releases (see his bandcamp page here); most notably for me the previous two ‘Darkness Unfolding’ and ‘Unfolding Light’. I spoke to Stephen Bradbury, the creative force behind Black Tempest, about how ‘Psyberspace’ relates to these and how his yoga practice informs his music.

I began, then, by asking him how this album fits into his oeuvre:

My previous two releases, Darkness Unfolding and Enfolding Light, marked a circular journey like the yin yang symbol. In some ways, Psyberspace is the third album of the trilogy. It represents the synthesis, the masculine and feminine aspects working dynamically.

This is clearly the case when you listen to the album, certainly for me, as I get a real sense of peace and equanimity from listening to it. I knew that Stephen practices yoga regularly, and some of the track titles would certainly suggest that he is relating those experiences into his music, so I went on to ask how they are linked:

The dedication of the record to Saraswati has a reason. Since completing my meditation teacher training earlier this year, the focus of my daily meditation has been the Saraswati mantra “OM Aim Saraswatyai Namaha”. Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom, nature and creativity. It is the creative aspect of Saraswati that inspired much of this album.

Saraswati is part of the trinity of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. All three aspects help the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the universe. There is a positive aspect, a negative aspect, and a third often ignored aspect – that of balance. There is darkness and there is light, but there is a pause between them. There is an in-breath and an out-breath, and there is a pause between them (the Kumbhak, or Kumbhaka).

I very much like this explanation, not only since it helps me get to the heart of Stephen’s creative process, but also because it ties in with ideas of balance that I very much try to follow. I do not practice Yoga, but have been learning Tai Chi recently and the philosophy behind some of the practice does seems to bear some similarities, the Yin Yang symbol, like Tai Chi, being part of Taoist principles. The idea of balance, then, interests me greatly and listening to this album in that light certainly enhances the experience for me; and I can see the different elements to the music here that combine to achieve this. Taking the first two tracks as an example, ‘Traveller’ has quite a dark feel to it. It is hectic and it is difficult to imagine practicing anything to this, perhaps the sound of a mind that is not stilled. By contrast ‘Prajnparamita’ (meaning ‘the perfection of wisdom’) feels much more still in its tone. There is more space to explore the sound and let the mind work its way through the maze-like structure of the track. This is a number that invites you to get inside it and explore.

After those ‘Forest of Stars’ is like a reflective pond, and has elements of the ‘relaxation’ music that you get in such as spas. However, I want to stress straight away that this is nowhere near as banal as that sort of music… the depth of the pond that you can explore here is much deeper than the surfacial ‘new age’ sounds that are often touted as being aids to relaxation. Just let it take you and drift away.

“Ritual of the Moon’ takes this a bit further. Somehow reminiscent of early Jean Michel Jarre for me, this is a track that gives you the feeling of being stretched out in front of you… you somehow feel that it represents something that remains just slightly out of your grasp… an otherworldliness that you somehow cannot connect with. Going back to Bradbury’s comments about balance and the much ignored moment or space between the breath… this very much seems to me to be an exploration of an intangible moment between two more tangible experiences… this parts of ourselves that are difficult to access.

In many ways ‘Ritual of the Moon’ feels like the centrepiece of the album, however that’s not to say that ‘Psyberhead’ is an anti-climax. In many ways, like the opening track, this feels more mundane than spiritual with Dave W’s guitar providing a sort of ‘rational’ edge amidst Bradbury’s electronica. It is at this point that I’m beginning to realise the breadth of this album, which I think is not immediately evidence so while it is a synthesis, it is a synthesis of diverse elements.

This is further obvious with the closing track, ‘Mukti Advesha’, which returns to the Dead Sea Apes connection, since it features Brett Savage and Chris Hardman on guitar and drums respectively. This is probably the most upbeat track on the album, and somehow delivers the listener back out into the ‘real’ world again.

This, for me, is Black Tempest’s best album to date. It is full of diverse electronica which engenders a diversity of feelings as it explores some of the deeper potentials of our spiritual experience. Yet while there are mystical elements to the music, some of it also seems rooted in the mundane. However, in setting out to achieve a synthesis between the two Bradbury has produced something that feels inclusive rather than combative, melding elements together rather than focussing on difference… in this day and age this is a very welcome approach indeed.

I shall leave the last words to him:

On a more down-to-earth level my meditation practice brought a focus to these recordings that helped up the energy level, as did the involvement of all the collaborators. I really can’t thank the people kind enough to contribute their talents to this album – they are all quite special to me, and it means a lot. Also those from The Weird Beard; a special bunch and no mistake, you’ve only got to see the amazing releases they’ve put out in such a short time.

Indeed, and ‘Psyberspace’ is available to order from The Weird Beard now here.



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