I once saw monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh speak at the European Buddhist Congress in Berlin in 1992. As you can image it was an event that was replete with strong positive vibes and spiritual softness. Thich Nhat Hanh stood out for many reasons that week, but the one that struck me most was that he appeared on stage with an armed guard. That moment re-defined the word ‘dangerous’ for me, how someone so dedicated to peace and reconciliation… someone who espoused the idea of non-violence… could be regarded as such a threat.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a key figure in the idea of ‘engaged Buddhism’, a principle which encourages the involvement of Buddhist principles and ideas in political struggle; a development that can be traced back to the Theosophical Society, founded in Victorian London. Without going too far into it the two principal founders of that group were Madame Helena Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Olcott. The latter is regarded as one of the first key European converts to Buddhism who, through his political and spiritual engagement in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), was one of the pioneers of ‘engaged Buddhism’… being regarded in Sri Lanka as an important figure in the independence and Buddhist revival movements in that country.
Blavatsky, however, has also been considered dangerous in some circles… the Theosophical Society that she founded being an interesting mix of Eastern spirituality and occultism. The Society’s aims were:
To form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or colour.
To encourage the study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science.
To investigate the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man.Theosophical Society (Wikipaedia)
These, I suspect, are aspirations that Arlen Thompson and Dave Reed… the duo that make up Anunnaki, would sign up to. Indeed, Thich Nhat Hahn and Madame Blavatsky are two ends of a continuum that Thompson and Reed particularly talk about in the the press release for this album:
Imagine a cross between Motorhead’s Lemmy & Philthy Animal and Kraftwerk’s Ralf & Florian, together channeling the kozmik vision of Alice Coltrane through Sunn O)))’s amplifiers, and with influences varying from Klaus Schulze to Acid Mothers Temple, from New Age to Black Metal, Madame Blavatsky to Thich Nhat Hanh, and you’ll start to get the idea of what Anunnaki is all about.Anunnaki bandcamp.
As you might have guessed by now this is a thoughtful and intense album that is not to be taken lightly… it is an album that has musical and cerebral depth to it… an album that is best heard by getting your head inside it and watch it swirl around you. When you do this you begin to fathom what is going on… a feeling which then has more to do with you the listener rather that Thompson and Reed the musicians.
In a sense, and in common with much music that sets out to be spiritual in nature, it facilitates thoughts and feelings. That facilitiation, however, is borne out of Anunnaki’s desire to reflect:
… all the chaos and turbulence going on in the world today, be it politically, environmentally, or socially, as well as reminding us of the beauty, love and compassion that so often appears fleeting in these modern times.Anunnaki bandcamp
This takes me back to Thich Nhat Hanh standing in a sports hall in a recently reunified city, at a conference where the principal messages were the Buddhist ideas of unity and compassion… being flanked by two guards with machine guns… and that, it seems to me, is the message of this album in a nutshell.
It is an album that I am really pleased to Premiere here on behalf of the band and Cardinal Fuzz… a set of tracks that individually and collectively reflect what I have already written here, and also very much reflect the artists name-checked in the above quote. They are all glacial in their tone and speed, providing the listener time to almost symbiotically immerse themselves in the music… each influence is at the same time given room without Thompson and Reed reverting to any sort of fandom. This is apocalyptic music for difficult times, hence the album’s title, so there’s no time to dwell on any one sonic form.
Instead this is an album that attempts to pull together a myriad of thoughts, feelings, sounds and emotions into one place. However, how coherent these are really depends on the listener, and our ability to make the most of the three tracks here. To listen to them with an open mind and spirit will, like any true dialogue, open you up to ideas that might take you out of your comfort zone… if you don’t fancy that then Anunnaki probably isn’t for you.
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