25 December 2006

Lodown Magazine no. 54

Lodown Magazine, no. 54


Open space is still the place, some argue, be it Outer or Myspace. But as more and more people remain indoors in order to roam the ridiculous depths of avatarian surface tubes and alt-worlds, some still carry that old school flag and pursue their travels on (at least more) real grounds. So does Caural, aka Zachary Mastoon – at least most of the time. The soon-to-be 29-year-old Chicago native, who recently made his move from Manhattan to Brooklyn, seems to be constantly going places, viz,: he likes to hit the road, get rollin', hit new cities. That is, when he's not on Myspace himself (where he's pretty aptly filed under Experimental-Shoegaze-Hip-Hop). Yet, neither his endless touring with the likes of Acey, Daedelus, Rjd2, or CocoRosie, nor his neverending backseat arguments about musical (non-)taste with Busdriver (who digs They Might Be Giants a li'l too heavily, if you ask Caural) will lead you to the sonic core of his individual journey: Cuz in fact Caural's trip is inward bound, meaning he ventures both into his archived snap-shot past, the computerized present, and hip-hop/electronica's sample-based future. There's a reason why he's into Vipassana meditation.

With his latest Mirrors For Eyes (out on Mush), he finally pulls the fine art of bedroom-based headphone production out of the oversized hard drive and rubs it softly but steadily into your sweetly stirred gut. Together with lesser-known vocal friends like Hrishikesh Hirway, Paul Amitai, and MC Racecar (oh yes, step on it, boi!), Caural perfectly balances his melodical manned mission between spaced out beat production – there are significant layovers and even lovely delays at PRF (Prefuse), FRT (Four Tet) and the more mellow BBP (Boom Bip) on his flight schedule – and organic nods to the more naïve, more grassroots, more contemplative and meditational side of the instrumental spectrum. "I included a lot of my close friends on this album, and either asked them to play on something, or used a recording they had made as source material. In the end, I write everything myself through the editing."

So what you get to see in those Mirrors is colorful and bipolar caural riffs and reefs, chanced upon in the pursuit of loops, that are either in full bloom, or being dominated by the sweeping forces of nature: "Well, I'm really a person of extremes: I can be very outgoing and extroverted, and alternatively want to stay in and look at photo albums or read old journals alone."

Checking out old journals, though, he's bound to undust little notes about his former neighbor and surrogate older brother Stuart Bogie (now of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra) who first got him under way with the drum set and some Fisher Price gear: "He was my absolute first friend. Stuart was a leader." 15 years later, after he'd learned to stand on his own two feet and had left Chicago to study jazz guitar and improvisation at Weseleyan U and NYU, Caural became a full-on multi-instrumentalist, sample wiz, and mile collecting frequent flyer. It was in-flight that he first learned about the different kind of dangers out there…

"Jet Blue flight 292 last September was a pretty crazy event in my life, in that it was the one that brought me closest to death – my own anyway. When we took off from Burbank, the plane's landing-gear didn't fully retract, leaving the wheels perpendicular to the runway and making a regular landing impossible. In reality, this sort of a malfunction had happened in the past and pilots are trained to land after such an event, but it was little consolation to the other passengers and me up in the sky. I was genuinely frightened for a short time, but when the guy sharing my seat row offered me his smuggled bottle of vodka tonic, I accepted there was nothing I could do and grew less and less afraid."

True you saw TV news on what was going on while still in the air?

"Yes, and that's what made it terrifying! I mean, we knew there was a problem, OK, but when you see the image of your plane hovering ominously in the small seat-back television in front of you – and on every major network! – it lets you know it's pretty serious. I'll never forget the pilot coming over the loudspeaker and saying, 'It looks like we made the news – sorry about that!' Here are these reporters describing us flying in circles to burn off fuel, discussing all the potential things which could go wrong in our incipient emergency landing, and we're helpless listening in the sky, eating Terra Blues or fucking Chex Mix! It really made things exponentially worse."

Would you say that this was the scariest thing you ever went through?

"No, actually. Why? Because – no matter what happened – it was out of my control. I think it's the experiences we initiate ourselves – taking drugs for instance – which prove to be the scariest since there's always that feeling of responsibility and ensuing guilt. Don't get me wrong: I used to love taking LSD or eating mushrooms, but if and when a bad thought entered my head and I let it stay, well, it was absolutely mortifying!"

It might be indebted to this notion (entering his head) that self-inflicted dangers are more startling than others, which led Zak to concentrate on more collaborative efforts lately. In collaborating, he can minimize the dangers of being too much in control, so that right after Mirrors For Eyes, he'll release an album he recorded together with his ex-roommate Jason Hunt (as Boy King Islands), and will then return to his first musical influence ever – the leading Mr. Bogie.

"After just over 20 years, I am still collaborating with Stuart Bogie, and as a duo we call ourselves The Original Ultraviolets. We are working on a record together which is very poppy – poppy for me anyway – with vocals, guitars, out-of-tune pianos, and whatever we can borrow from friends to record with in Brooklyn."

Well, maybe the tangible hood is still the best place after all. Way better than My- or out-of-reach spaces. I mean, who could help you out with sugar, an egg, or keyboards in the digital or orbital realm?


10 December 2006

Lost at Sea

Oh yes. My bedroom is finally looking like my own again after having had a subletter use it as his all-in-one living and storage space for the last three months. This fall has been a blur which has left me floating and reeling. After Be The Riottt in San Francisco and a short tour in France with Busdriver, I had only a day back in New York before heading to cold Chicago for a long Thanksgiving holiday with my family. It was lovely as usual, and the weekend included some drunken adventures in the city with friends, which thankfully did not result in a DUI; I'm fucking smooth.

Anyway, my next stop was a Carnival cruise with my younger sister, Shana. Upon the successful signing of her apartment lease, as an added bonus, her realtor threw in a free cruise for two. Luckily for me, my sister's boyfriend couldn't go for some inconceivable reason, and I was her lucky man in tow for a cheesy romp in the Gulf of Mexico. 75% of our ship was from Texas, and I'd safely say 20% was from Oklahoma; that leaves only the paltry remaining 5% of us to relish in the fact that we were not from the south. You should've seen the formal night for christ's sake! Never in my life have I had the distinct pleasure of seeing so many overweight, seasick women in red-sequined evening gowns, carrying tall, $7 pink frothy drinks with their cowboy boyfriends. Each night- and practically every morning- a photographer would walk around and capture all kinds of "exciting" and "fun" happenings on the ship- you know, like a completely bored "pirate" with a hook coming around tables at dinner and posing with the unimpressed patrons, or perhaps an "authentic" looking Mexican wearing face paint and feathers (huh?) waiting for debarking passengers at port- and then place all the photos along the hall of the atrium for all to see and, um, buy. I have few regrets, but one of them is not taking pictures of the pictures, if you know what I mean.

Sadly, we had only 1 and a half days of sun. Generally, it was cloudy, cold, and raining, and that had an obvious effect for us: motion sickness. But, without fail, our Australian cruise director would get on the loud speaker a few times a day following a little melody to announce "it just doesn't get any better than this- you're on vacation!" Um, yeah- I can think of a few ways it could get better, but I don't want to upset the people playing Bingo, paying $200 for an hour-long massage, or blowing money in the casino right now, so I'll just keep my opinions to myself.

All in all, through even my most cynical moments, I had fun, and loved taking in the ocean probably more than it loved giving me seasickness as return karma for laughing at everyone around me.

I now have only a week to spend at home before going back to Chicago for my birthday and the holidays and am feeling quite insular; perhaps I've been listening to Benoit Pioulard's beautiful album too much and should put on something a little happier. Until then, enjoy seasonal affective disorder with me!

13 November 2006

Entre Paris Et Rouen

Maintenant, j'ecris avec un vieux ordinateur dans une belle maison entre Paris et Rouen, et il y a trois chats, un chien tres agité, et beaucoup des petits canards avec moi! Busdriver et moi, nous sommes arrivées aujourd-hui, et nous sommes un peu fatigue: comment dit-on "jet-lag"? Il faut froid, mais nous avons un grand feu dans le cheminee. Alors, San Francisco et le "Be The Riott" festival était super! Il y avait beaucoup des bons artistes comme Deerhoof, Explosions in the Sky, Metric, the Rapture, Xiu Xiu, etc., et j'était trés heureux de jouer! J'ai bû trop de bierre, mais c'est comme d'habitude :)

Une petite et trés mignone fille qui s'appelle Nina montée sur l'escalier, et sa soeur Thais joue le piano. Severine prépare diner pour tous, et je pense que monsieur Busdriver dort maintenant. Je suis desolé, mais Il faut que je pratique mon francais! Bon, je vais t'ecriver en anglais la prochâine fois.

02 November 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] Revolver USA Sampler Autumn '06

Revolver USA Sampler Autumn '06 (Midheaven, 2006)
Midheaven 11
Format: CD Promo

"I Won't Race You"

(taken from the album Mirrors for Eyes)

17 October 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] Caural - Mirrors for Eyes

Caural - Mirrors for Eyes (Mush, 2006)
Format: 2LP & CD

1. Dead Armies
2. Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose
3. Cold Hands (feat. Hrishikesh Hirway)
4. I Won't Race You
5. Hallucination Broadcast
6. Transition Suite - Part I: Lady (feat. Racecar)
7. Transition Suite - Part II: Papillon
8. Make Us Invisible
9. Cruel Fate of Spring (feat. Paul Amitai)
10. Sending You Colors
11. Only Time Will Know (feat. Jacob Croegaert)

Artwork & Photography by Barbara & Marc Mastoon
Design by Chris Eichenseer @ Someoddpilot


Caural returns with Mirrors For Eyes, his second release for Mush, and the proper follow-up to his last cohesive full-length effort, 2002’s Stars On My Ceiling (Chocolate Industries). Continuing to build tracks of intricate sound splices over daring drum programming, Caural pushes the fine art of headphone music forward, with surprises around every beat. Hrishikesh Hirway, of One AM Radio, Paul Amitai, and Jacob Croegaert add stirringly sweet complimentary vocals to Caural’s already beautiful and melodic production on the tracks “Cold Hands,” “Cruel Fate of Spring,” and "Only Time Will Know," while Chicago MC Racecar, of the group Modill, laces “Lady” with a throwback rhyme in the spirit of Native Tongues. The brilliance of the instrumental passages and the standout guest vocal spots solidify Mirrors For Eyes as Caural’s most fully realized album to date.


30 Music
Maybe when you dream you see strange shapes that are pleasant from afar, but upon closer inspection begin to resemble repetitive acts of soft-core, apocalyptic violence. Perhaps you appreciate the way the concrete reflects a fiery sunset only to realize that the source of so many reds and oranges isn't the sun, but a forest fire. Or maybe you see a lake from the interstate you're driving on, and pull over to take a dip only to find that the lake is designated an environmental disaster site, full of so much pollution and broken glass that entering its depths would mean certain death. This is what Mirrors for Eyes, the newest record from Caural—aka Zachary Mastoon—sounds like. The majority of the record is odd, but dreamy and laced with a strange ethereal energy.

From the album's opening guitar strums, like angel's harps ascending to heaven, it's clear Mastoon is pushing his hybrid of samples, beats and computers into a realm not often attempted, and less often achieved, in the realm of technology driven music—these songs, or most of them anyway, are infused with an uncanny sense of magic. "Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose," opens with shaky vocal samples and keys accompanied by distant chimes and piano plinking before a cymbal splash invites the beat in. The array of sounds that open the song are so organic that the beats are almost shocking.

Many of the album's highlights ascribe to a similar theme. The ambience that whispers into life on "Hallucination Broadcast" slowly grows and transforms into a natural, meditative drone, underscored by hand drums before the thick, and tight beats drop in to shake up nature and wake up the tree gazers. Much of this success carries over into Caural's collaborations with vocalists. While "Cold Hands" with Hrishikesh Hirway and "Only Time Will Tell" (sic) with Jacob Croegnaert don't quite fit into the album's overall scheme, the first part of the "Transition Suite" makes fine use of Racecar's natural delivery. Even more impressive is "Cruel Fate of Spring," a truly inspired pop nugget featuring Paul Amitai crooning over warm electric piano and a slew of other subtle textures.

In a genre that is known for producing scores of background music, it's nice to find an album like Caural's Mirrors for Eyes. Not content with simply honing technical precision, Zachary Mastoon has crafted an elegant, and fascinating record that explores the dim, unexpected corners where the natural world and technology meet. By infusing his songs with so much natural beauty, the beats and samples almost come across as ugly. Unlike the grim examples that opened this review, however, electronic coldness is an ugliness that only contributes to the album's overall beauty.

40 Versions
Dizzying dream-loop beats, hissy patchwork instrumentation, floating vocal bits, something for a colorful fall day.

Aiding & Abetting
The beats are much dirtier, the songs are somewhat flightier, and the need for patience is identical. Caural has a bit more of a track record, but that doesn't make this stuff any more mainstream. Still, I can hear a bit more "crossover" potential in this stuff. By not being so overtly aggressive, Zachary Mastoon (a.k.a Caural) leaves the door open a crack further. Plus, he adheres closer to pop song construction--within his interpretation of such, anyway. The grungy sound here really completes the package for me. Most of the fuzz comes in the lowest beats, but it's really effective. Something to luxuriate in, for sure. As are the songs here. Despite their lofty ambitions, these songs are best enjoyed with a relatively blank mind. Just let the wonderment drift past your ears and you, too, will be enlightened. And if you're not, well, you'd better start looking for your prefrontal lobes.

Zachary Mastoon's music occupies the same sort of creative territory from which talents like Four Tet, Prefuse 73 and Boom Bip have sprouted. He deftly combines a hip hop production ethic with a strong pop sensibility, taking in plenty of wig-out digressions along the way. The glue that holds Mirrors For Eyes together is Caural's pedigree in skilful electronic manipulations. 'Re-experience Any Moment You Choose' is a blissful cut-and-paste of found sound percussion mixed in with more conventional drumbeats, all topped off with a layering of detuned female vocals. The jazzy excursions of 'Transition Suite Part II – Papillon' and the new age-laptop-psych of 'Hallucination Broadcast' bear the hallmarks of Mastoon's musical education, studying Indonesian gamelan and South East Asian Music and even taking improvisation classes with none other than Anthony Braxton. A great example of hip hop-flavoured electronica loosening up and letting in some more out-there textures, Mirrors For Eyes sits alongside the recent work of Daedelus and Nobody, sounding very much like abstract hip hop's next move.

BPM Magazine
Following on the success of his 2002 full-length for Chocolate Industries, Stars on My Ceiling, Zachary Mastoon, better known as Caural, takes another step forward with his second record for SoCal stalwarts, Mush. Pulling together intricate beat programming, wide-ranging instrumentation and the occasional rhyme, Mirrors for Eyes wraps the listener in a world that expands upon the expolrations revealed by repeated listens. That is to say, don't play this in the background while you're doing the dishes - slap the headphones on and put your feet up on the couch to enjoy the crashing kit drums and stuttering production tweaks of "Hallucination Broadcast," sink into your beanbag and be regaled by the round, boom-bap bounce of "I Won't Race You," and loll about on the rug while the crisp snares, reversed guitars, and lounge style organ of "Make Us Invisible" fill your mind. You'll be glad you stayed in.

So what happens when you mix hip-hop beats with South Asian influences and a shoegaze penchant for noise and try to force them all to exist together in that nebulous world of "experimental" music? Ask Zachary Mastoon, the multi-instrumentalist that is Caural. Mirror For Eyes is somewhat schizophrenic, sometimes working with smooth hip-hop beats and other times regressing into the cacophonous smashing of a rock band going all out at the end of their set. As for vocals, they range from ethereal (read: creepy) tones to slick rhymes to less-impressive Light FM-style melodies. Caural is eclectic to say the least, but he definitely has focused strengths—he's at his best when working more with beats and less with noise—and when on display, those tracks stand miles ahead of the rest. A broad scope of influences can definitely be an advantage, but as Mirrors For Eyes shows, it still helps to narrow your concentration.

DJ Magazine
Schooled in the same art of instrumental downbeat as Ammoncontact, Daedelus, Jimmy Edgar and Nobody, Zachary Mastoon returns with a full-length No. 2. It's an accomplished and colorful affair that twists and turns its way from glitch-driven weirdness to atmospheric post-rock.

Zachary Mastoon finally releases his proper follow-up to his fantastic 2002 effort Stars on My Ceiling and hasn't missed a step in the meantime. Mirrors for Eyes continues Caural's ability to take hip-hop influenced programming and combine it with gorgeous electronic flares and haunting vocal samples to make yet another moving piece of musical work. Right off the bat we're greeted with a lush transition of the harp-driven "Dead Armies" as it builds its samples into a greater soundscape to breath life into the psychedelic "Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose," both chopping drums into dozens of fragments to give Caural his signature stuttered sound.

There's a few vocal turns this time around as Racecar from Chicago's slept-on Modill rhymes nicely over a romantic hip-hop joint and, even though they might sound a little like whiney folk in their delivery, Hrishkesh Hirway and Paula Amitai provide some nice melodies to break up instrumentals. Mirrors for Eyes definitely excels the most when Caural relies on his production to take centre stage, dropping various horns, guitar feedback, toy pianos and other electronic orchestration to create very moving compositions for easy listening. The comparisons to Prefuse 73 are hard to not make, but with Scott Herren losing the plot lately it's time for people to focus on this JetBlue Flight 292 survivor and Chicago native's fantastic spliced drum arrangements.

Multi-instrumentalist/producer Zachary Mastoon certainly has an extremely diverse musical background, having studied jazz guitar and improvisation at Wesleyan University under Anthony Braxton before going on to explore Indonesian gamelan and Southeast Asian music. It's an eclectic palette of influences that's brought out in full among the lush and diverse explorations offered on Mirrors for Eyes, his second album for Mush and his fourth in total. While much of the material here isn't a million miles away from the sorts of eclectic post-hip-hop constructions of the likes of Daedelus, what really sets it apart from so many other makers of "leftfield" beats is the attention to depth of texture.

While beat-driven moments such as the narcotically swooning "Re-experience Any Moment You Choose" traverse similar landscape to the likes of Prefuse 73, the layers of lush texture in the form of trailing broken glass and unexpected sub-bass swells show Caural taking advantage of considerably more width in the frequency spectrum. "Hallucination Broadcast" finds Indian tabla influences rising to the forefront amid blurred vocal tones and drones from Don Rainwater, while the evocatively slowburning "Papillon" would easily sit alongside the Cinematic Orchestra with its rich, majestic Sun Ra Arkestra-esque horns. Easily one of the most consistently gripping and sonically rich instrumental hip-hop listening experiences I've had the pleasure of in some time, Mirrors for Eyes is highly recommended to fans of Boom Bip and Dabrye's more lush excursions.

Zachary Mastoon's myspace page for Caural self-stylizes his work as "Experimental / Shoegazer / Hip-Hop," safely tapping three genre classifictions that, in isolation, can certainly be said to characterize his work. However, when you throw them all together (as Mastoon does more often than not on Mirrors For Eyes, his second record for Mush), the blenderization turns the music into something closer to dusky hiccuping improvisation or elegant and eclectic lounge music.

"Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose" is slow-burn dub with sleepy drum kit, digital time slices of forgotten back-up singers, a Hammond Organ tickled and coaxed by a nimble-fingered suitor, and bridges made of leftover static from ancient My Bloody Valentine studio sessions. The rhythm section of "Cold Hands" is glitched up with Pole-style static, creating a whispering backdrop for Hrishikesh Hirway's maudlin lyrics; while "I Won't Race You" juxtaposes gliding vocal samples (choral shoegazer) with syncopated drums, highlighting Mastoon's methodology of building the drum loops first before layering in swooping synth pads, tintinnabulation, and the delicate tracery of the vocals. "Hallucination Broadcast" veers away from the ethereal pacing of the early part of the record with its noisy drum exposition, a burst of thunder amid a drift of gentle rain. "Make Us Invisible" is an elementary school recess soundtrack with winsome woodwinds, stutter-step drum programming, and bubbling electronics, call it a bit of Boards of Canada naivette mixed with the Four Tet dance machine. "Sending You Colors" swirls waves of glamorous guitar melodies and lilting piano chords around a bed of digitized household noises--part straw broom whisk, part washing machine gurgle, part copper pan clatter, part utensil drawer rattle; while "Cruel Fate of Spring" features Paul Amitai doing tubercular emo while Mastoon arranges delicate organ melodies and finely granulated drum programming into a stately spring processional.

This is the trick (or trap, really) of genre labeling. If the rhythms aren't mathematically challenging enough to cause whiplash when you try to follow them, then it can't be IDM; if they don't lurch about, crashing into the walls, they can't be broken. So what's left? The same can be said for the inimitable wash of guitar noises: well, it's got to be... In the end, there's only one track --"Transition Suite: Part 1 - Lady" -- that actually features hip-hop vocals; the rest is simply informed by Mastoon's shoegazer. And Mastoon hides a little behind the "experimental" tag, I think, using it as a catch-all to deflect criticism from ardent fans of either genre who come to fuss about the purity of his expression. I'm tempted to add the phrases "downtempo" and "acid jazz" and "minimal glitch" to the list, but that just complicates things, doesn't it? While Mirrors For Eyes is certainly a complex work, its subtle magic is the manner in which it enchants the listener.

Intake Music Weekly
As unexpected and strange as a long dream, "Mirrors for Eyes" brings an ambient sound that has no shortage of sonic experimentation. Based out of Brooklyn, Caural is Zachary Mastoon, who according to his Myspace page is influenced heavily by visual arts. This can easily be inferred from his music, as it's essentially an aural collage. Beats are spliced, deconstructed, looped and pasted together. In some instances, the whole package is intriguing, in others it's busy and cumbersome. Vocals are manipulated in a similar fashion.

In "Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose," its simple vocal will bounce from one ear to another, messing with your head a little. The layering is impressive and appreciated, though, because the album surprises you often. You'll hear windchimes, baby noises, foresty sounds and some unidentifiable sounds. A sack of pennies being shaken? Maybe. Dripping faucet? Not sure yet, but I'll get back to you. Songs most instantly appreciated are "Cold Hands," featuring Hrishikesh Hirway, and "Cruel Fate of Spring, " featuring Paul Amitai, Mastoon even threw in a hip-hop song for the kids. It's not the most accessible album, but If you're bored with standard music composition, you'll at least be entertained by all of Caural's curve balls.

Chicago bred musician Zachary Mastoon has always made the type of music I am typically into, but for some reason, we have never fully connected on a complete album (because obviously he and all other musicians should be catering to solely my taste). Under the Caural moniker, Mastoon crafts left-field hip-hop leaning towards folktronica, ambient and IDM with Eastern influences. His previous albums for Chocolate Industries always seemed a bit too cluttered, but with his return to Mush, Caural sounds reinvigorated with finally a fully realized sound. Because he builds his songs from the drums up, Mastoon's earlier productions sounded stiff, but now he lets the melodic instrumentation, notably strings and clarinet, breath and take over from time to time, almost like an instrumental hip-hop version of Jen Jelinek. With the minimal vocal help from Hrishikesh Hirway of One AM Radio, Chicago emcee Racecar of Modill, Paul Amitai and Jacob Croegaert, Mirrors for Eyes is the album I've always wanted to hear from Caural... and you should, too.

Dreamy electronic soundscapes combine with abstract noise experimentation and sparse but memorable vocals to create a truly interesting enterprise: Caural. Comprised of one-man machine Zachary Mastoon, Caural, with a little help from some very talented friends, effectively blends elements of avant-garde hip-hop, noise rock, and electronica in a way your ears have never experienced. The product is a bumping crock-pot of synthetic, surrealist, computer-generated free jazz for a new era. Deliciously original, the organic instrumentation featured on Mirrors for Eyes is infested with effects and re-cut to the point of total de-familiarization.

On the track, "Hallucination Broadcast," live drums are artfully maimed and manipulated until the listener is unable to distinguish them from the sound of violent car crash. However, traditional distortion is not the only trick up Mastoon's sleeve. Delay and echo are exhibited in mastery, transforming typical samples into brand new musical explorations. Songs on Mirrors for Eyes truly run the gamut of genres. From the strongly hip-hop, "Transition Suite Part 1- Lady," to the melatonin-laden, Manitoba-esque, "Re-experience Any Moment You Choose," Mastoon displays a musical prowess that lends itself comfortably to a number of different styles. Mastoon disorients the listener in such a way that you as not much confused as you are displaced. He takes you to another world and leaves you there, assuming you can find your way back, and encourages you to absorb- to drink in all that Caural has to offer, which I assure you is a lot. This record is pure joy. Turn off the lights, turn it up, close your eyes and say goodbye. You'll be very glad you did.

Orlando Weekly
The balance captured on Caural's Mirrors for Eyes originates from experience in recording for at least a couple of labels, but it's also due to scattered schooling. Before assuming his moniker, producer/electronic musician Zachary Mastoon studied jazz, Southeast Asian music and other genres, generously applying this elaborate scope to his experiments. Mirrors for Eyes offers sampled breaks, warm, slowly dissolving noise and a handful of guests (such as Hrishikesh Hirway) for a filling, yet mostly digestible record. The transparently labeled "Hallucination Broadcast" is strewn with a dense mix of everything that enriches the album: perpetual ghostly static loops, occasional crashing beats and live mixed hand percussion. But Mastoon juggles multiple personalities on Mirrors, and just as he shoots grimy synth stabs into faux mellotron textures ("I Won't Race You"), he warms up too much, eventually slowing to an after-dinner guitar-and-organ vibe ("Sending You Colors").

Paper Thin Walls
Chicago-based sample-tweaker, jazz buff and world traveler Caural (Zachary Mastoon on his tax return) makes lovely noise out of human and mechanical snippets. Actually, 'noise' isn't quite the right word, considering Zach once went on a retreat where he meditated 12 hours a day (he claims he could hear ice melt and feel the backs of his eyes!), and returned "offended" by some of the ugly sounds of the city. Cut to Mirrors For Eyes, a challenging, yet chaos-free zone of spliced beats and rhymes with assorted pings, bloops and binary scrapes added for good measure. "I Won't Race You," has the feel of a coded message sent from an intelligent life form from a galaxy far away... a civilization so advanced they were able to download the new Four Tet from your BitTorrent account (that's a compliment, not a slag). What gives this track its appeal is the way Caural pulls the vocal sample into a cotton candy cloud and lets it float above twinkly, musical shards of icy comets. Groundbreaking? Maybe not, but I think Caural's ears are trained somewhere other than Earth to begin with.

Last fall, sandwiched between live sets from Thavius Beck and part-time Musher Daedelus, I heard the man known as Caural drop some serious bombs. Funny enough, the song that brought the house down was a Legend of Zelda mash-up. Who’d have thunk that a Nintendo game from our pre-pubescent years would invoke such amped-up nostalgia. Of course it didn’t hurt that Caural had a wicked crunker of a break scuttling Link along.

Don’t know Caural? Well he has tracks released by the likes of Ninja Tune, Chocolate Industries, Plug Research and Raw Fusion, which should give you an idea of what his sound comes out to be: sparse but thick, tight but meandering, all in a robotic swagger on the beats below and a melodic sway from the voices and atmospherics up top. Yes he can hold his own on an instrumental break, but the four songs on Mirrors that Caural enlists vocalists are the choice cuts. “Cold Hands” features harrowing singing from The One AM Radio and “Transition Suite” has a nice flow from Racecar who has the introspection of a mellow J-Live and is complemented nicely with well-placed violin string sounds. Paul Amitai’s quirky but smooth harmonies on “Cruel Fate of Spring” serve as reason alone to put this CD in your clock-radio for an alarm music, giving that attentive but relaxing feeling. Live instrumentations abound with shouldershankers galore, “Sending You Colors” is all things that those dorky Boards of Canada fans will shudder at. Overall, it’s just another aces joint from Mush.

Remix Magazine
Zachary Mastoon's second release for Mush Records arrives on a silver platter from left field, serving up another of his layer-cake ambient feasts of experimental sound. Mixing up organic instrumentations with peppery metallic electronics, it's a noisy set best listened to with both ears as Caural slices and dices playful drum beats, floaty synths and handpicked guest musicians, all to do production justice to such innovative compositions as the weary "Cold Hands" (with Hrishikesh Hirway), the phased vocal trickery of "I Won't Race You" and the clap-along 3-D stylings of "Dead Armies."

Caural's material and style are fabulously represented on Mirrors For Eyes, his second Mush full-length. Chicago-bred Zachary Mastoon isn't unique in spicing a plethora of sounds and styles into richly detailed, Daedelus-like settings but the results are highly personalized and immediately identifiable as his alone.

A prototypical Caural cut is rooted in hip-hop, with a lush boom-bap base paired with a meaty synth bass line so phat it'd make Dabrye jealous (consider the subtly swinging "I Won't Race You" as proof). But Mastoon is no Mullinix clone, as Caural's left-field material contentedly inhabits an interzone between beat-based cuts and compositional collage. "Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose" might, for example, be rooted in boom-bap but the sparkling mass of sound and softly humming choir he layers over top shift the tune from the dance floor towards the listening lounge.

Numerous guests appear (vocals by One AM Radio's Hrishikesh Hirway and Paul Amitai, and instrumental support by Jason Hunt), keeping things unpredictable and enhancing the disc's considerable scope. Thus, at disc's center, we hear in succession Don Rainwater adding drones to the tabla-fueled and drum-punch meditation "Hallucination Broadcast," Chicago MC Racecar (Modill) draping easy rhymes over a relaxed funk-hip-hop pulse in "Transition Suite: Part 1 – Lady," and dueling sax work by Stuart Bogie and Colin Stetson during the jazz-hop of the "Papillon" second part—the triad indicative of Mirrors For Eyes' ambitious reach.

Caural has been a steady name in the downtempo scene putting out top notch headphone beats on Chocolate Industries and more recently Mush. In the first moments of the opener "Dead Armies," Caural shows much progress as he lays downs incredible textures and some super-finessed drums. The dreaminess continues with "Re-Experience," which weaves a female vocal in and out of your speakers. Caural still gets down with the drums of death, check the rock breaks of "Hallucination Broadcast." Amidst all the psychedelic beats, Caural's hip-hop influence shines through on "Transition Suite #1" featuring the quiet-cool raps of Racecar or the sublime "I Won't Race You" with its tapped-out drums. He also seems to gather some influence from labelmate Nobody, utilizing soft-psyche aesthetics on the vocal track "Cruel Fate of Spring" and the electronic slash acoustic "Sending You Colors." Total enjoyable experience.

Crisp snares, pulsing bass drums and sizzling hisses battle soaring harp samples, sparkling beeps and other lush sounds in the ambient soundscape that is Mirrors for Eyes, the new album from Caural. Known outside the studio as Zachary Mastoon, the Chicago-based producer returns with his third full-length effort, aided by several etherial vocalists and the emcee Racecar, who rhymes on the mellow "Transition Suite, Part I - Lady." Mirrors for Eyes shines most on tracks like "Dead Armies" and "I Won't Race You," where crunchy percussion flirts with broken beat and heady samples will leave you daydreaming. At its best, Caural's new album will appeal to fans of Prefuse 73 and Dabrye - audiophiles who enjoy listening to music on expensive headphones that allow them to hear the slightest click and the subtlest sample. At its worst, it's slightly monotonous. Overall, it's a welcome addition to any IDM fan's collection.

Something I've noticed about Caural is that every release I've heard of his is different. Even though some of them don't immediately grab me, it becomes clear that he is operating on a unique and experimental level that takes time to appreciate. The more you hear the detail, the more arresting his work becomes. From the odd structures of his Paint EP, to the crusty beat workouts of Stars On My Ceiling, following through to the collection of glitchy and dense sketches and unreleased material on Remembering Today.

His latest, Mirrors For Eyes, feels like something wholly formed from all of his experiments through the years, presenting us with a layered and sonically exciting maelstrom of beats, voices, and noise. The floating dimensional sound of "Dead Armies" and ""Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose" remind me of Prefuse 73, but tempered organically into a kind of psychedelic jam band freakout. "Cold Hands," "Cruel Fate of Spring," and "Only Time Will Know" feature heart-stopping guest singers and paint pictures of the melancholy and nostalgic brain behind the music. The beats bring to mind chain and wood meshed with wire, the melodies swirl and twist recalling moments of Boards of Canada. This is truly an album for headphones. Even now, while listening and writing this, I'm finding more and more to love and more to marvel at. It's not quite hip hop, not quite IDM, not quite anything you've ever heard, a heady brew of sound and emotion. Out on Mush Records and very recommended.

With his second full-length, Mirrors For Eyes, Caural (born Zachary Mastoon) doesn't so much as propel the glitch-hop format forward as fill in the spaces left behind. It's a quietly rich album, a rusty treasure chest spilling over with broken diamonds and gilded leaves. Over a fairly straightforward boom-bap framework, Caural embroiders his tapestry of undulating harps and flutes, pixie-dusted washes of audio fuzz, and vocoder filtered angel choruses. Admittedly, cuts like "Re-Experience Any Moment You Choose" tailgate Prefuse 73's earlier works a little closely, but they hold a sense of sweetness and wonderment all their own.

11 October 2006

Mush Records 2006 U.S. Fall Tour with Daedelus, Thavius Beck and Yours Truly

Oh yes, sunny Los Angeles! I've been trying to hike off the debauchery of the past few weeks at Runyon, and laying low: mainly drinking wine, cooking, and watching my friend's DVDs. The tour with Busdriver, Akrobatik, and Pigeon John took us through lots of interesting places and many not-so-interesting ones; I'm at a loss for words when it comes to states like Nebraska... It's as if no one cared, and just said, "well, screw it- let's just move on." I don't even think the clouds were interesting over Nebraska, and that's saying quite a lot coming from me (I am sure Busdriver got sick of me pointing out all the different clouds and rolling down the window to snap photos, but I was just getting back at him for making me listen to They Might Be Giants and The Knife).

Anyway, enough smack-talking. Here's what's coming up in the next couple of weeks:

One more show with Busdriver before we hit Europe in November:

Saturday, October 14th, 8:00PM

Busdriver and Me, and Of Mexican Descent (2Mex and Xololanxinxo)

@ The Terrace
443 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101

and then, starting on Monday:

Mush Records - 2006 U.S. Fall Tour
featuring Daedelus, Caural, and Thavius Beck

Oct 17 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo (w/ Nobody)
Oct 18 Phoenix, AZ @ Modified Arts (w/ Great Stone Soundsystem)
Oct 19 San Diego, CA @ Kava Lounge (w/ DJs John Baker, Thumbprint, Frantik, Mada, Jwon)
Oct 20 San Francisco, CA @ BOCA (Bar Of Contemporary Art) (w/ Christopher Willits)
Oct 21 ** TBD ** (Sacramento, CA) or DAY OFF
Oct 22 Portland, OR @ Towne Lounge
Oct 23 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey (w/ Truckasaurus)
Oct 24 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle (w/ Dosh)
Oct 25 Cleveland, OH @ B Side Lounge (w/ DJ Vadim/One Self upstairs @ Grog Shop)
Oct 26 Pittsburgh, PA @ Lava Lounge (w/ Jack Wilson)
Oct 27 New York, NY @ Southpaw (w/ Praveen)

For full venue details, please check my myspace page. Thank you Mush and Approaching Serpents for putting this together!

Mirrors for Eyes just shipped to stores!

That's right: my new album on Mush, "Mirrors for Eyes," just shipped to stores on Monday, so it should be reaching shelves as early as next week; however, if you come and say hello while I'm on the road, I will have copies with me for your listening pleasure.

09 October 2006

Return to Los Angeles

After a quick, hungover drive from Phoenix this afternoon, I am in Los Angeles at my home-away-from-home. The tour passed by a little too quickly despite some routing pains (3 overnight drives which Busdriver handled like the gangster he is) and, although I heard the same sets for the last 3 weeks, I feel lost tonight without Pigeon John jumping around and saying "Bro" or "She's a Freakin' Christian!" Last night in Scottsdale, on a stage covered in beef blood (I was hoping it was human blood from a punk show, but it turns out it was some weird industrial band having fun), John delivered the most classic quote from a hip-hop show *ever* as he addressed the crowd:

"Imagine it's Christmas, and I am naked, but I have no penis- it's just smooth down there. And [his DJ, bTwice] is cooking me bacon. B! You're cooking me bacon, bro!"

You see why I am so upset now?

Alas, after thousands of miles driven through middles-of-nowhere which blurred together in fields- listening to our fuzzy iPod soundtrack including Justin Timberlake, Animal Collective, Ghostface Killa, Sonic Youth, Leonard Cohen, Broadcast, Os Mutantes, and shit that Busdriver likes that makes me cringe- we found ourselves entrenched in one adventure after the next. Since most may not be fit for print, I'll leave you instead with the hilarious police log from the small Humboldt County town we played: Arcata, California. I swear you just couldn't make this shit up- not even in a place whose economy is based on Marijuana cultivation...

(from the Arcata Eye, September 19th, 2006)

Hoots, Hollers, Threats and Creative Unpleasantness
Arcata Police Log by Kevin L. Hoover

Thursday, August 24
3:18 PM A water pipe sales representative set up a short-lived shop beside a Plaza garbage can, which was no substitute for a business license.
4:53 PM A citizen who'd been waiting for a bus at Virginia Way and Lena Avenue went wee on someone's bushes, which upset a resident. The bus rider then went to the police department to complain about harassment.
4:56 PM A bushy-bearded man is no longer welcome at a Uniontown shopping center.
5:15 PM A bearded man is no longer welcome at his ex-partner's home.
5:33 PM A beardly weirdling unsettled proceedings at a Fifth Street church
7:28 PM A small baggie of "something white" was spotted in the company of a man bearing facial hair near Westwood Center.
8:21 PM A young male dine-and-dasher at a Valley West Mexican eatery sported an earnest suggestion of a beard.

Friday, August 25
1:40 AM A 12th street man predicted that an ex-girlfriend would break his window because she thought he stole her dog.
11:06 AM A man reported than an overnight houseguest had threatened to murder him if he made any more remarks about his girlfriend's "social major."
3:38 PM Various personnel come and go from the van parked at Ninth and F streets, from which clouds of dope smoke also exude.
4:45 PM Pete beseeched a passerby for coinage in Uniontown
5:10 PM Young males with hats clustered and fussed on the Plaza

Tuesday, August 29
3:38 PM Anina Way neighbors conflicted
When someone's dog ran unrestricted
Discussion ensued
Allegedly rude
With someone's ass set to be kicked
4:41 PM Someone got so mad at a child at a Valley West burger joint that the kid's head was angrily slammed by a bathroom door.

[And this one may be my favorite]:
6:33 PM A woman complained that a street person threatened to sit on her head until she became dead behind an everlasting donut shop.


So, I have about a week to relax before heading back out with Daedelus & Thavius Beck, and I hope there are fans like the guy in Denver who hung out at our car and repeatedly punched himself in the face, saying "I love you man!" to a completely bewildered Busdriver. That's what makes this fun; well, that and late-night antics with new friends at the Super 8.

06 October 2006

(From The Road - 2: Texas)

There is nothing but Texan darkness surrounding the road we illuminate with the headlights of our Impala, our sedan of a home for nearly the last month. Sonic Youth's album Dirty (now the song "Nic Fit") plays on the stereo, and it reminds me of a crush I had on a tall blonde named Liz who had a boyfriend, and a nighttime drive in Kentucky with my cousin Stephanie.

I met Liz with a girl Megan I used to mess around with from another high school- Niles North, I think- and the energy between us was intense and immediate. I remember walking with her at dusk back to Megan's, and we held hands secretly behind her back. Then, I think we were watching some kind of movie and laying together on the bed, again trying to hide the fact that we were holding each other. We'd talk on the phone for hours and met once- just the two of us- at her house. I just remember staring into her eyes and neither of us being able to do anything. It was this album that I listened to the most during the weeks that this unrequited relationship existed. And then- I imagine it was soon afterwards- I was in Kentucky for my cousin Thad's Bar Mitzvah, and Stephanie and I escaped the cheesy party full of rich Jews to drive around aimlessly and smoke Newports. I think we got lost together.

I can't believe there's only 2 nights left on this tour. Somehow, it seems way too short, and maybe because my love for the adventures has been strengthened. All the energy from the crowds, the loud music, the new connections... Sneaking into hotel swimming pools, bizarre meals at places like Terrible's in Iowa where they warned me that I had to sign a waiver if I wanted my burger medium rare.

Fuck, we just got pulled over.

This is the fourth time so far.

19 September 2006

(From the Road - 1: California)

I haven't shaved in about a week, and I'm beginning to enjoy the beginnings of my beard's itchiness. We're done with the drive for the day, having wound through the forest-topped mountains and clouds of northern California to our fuzzy iPod soundtrack, ranging from Justin Timberlake through Ghostface Killa and the new, bizarre Dr. Octagon album (ironically, we sat at the base of a hill and listened to him recite "trees are dying" as we impatiently admired the pines, waiting for the construction worker to lower the stop sign). Now at a FedEx/Kinko's on the main drag of this small town of Arcata, Busdriver looks over responses to his Myspace bulletin post about needing a place to stay tonight while I breeze quickly through emails on an outdated browser. It's perfectly quiet except for the humming of equipment and the soft radio, and the sun is beginning to set.

We have three shows behind us- four if you count the Cocorosie gig in Los Angeles- and I finally feel more entrenched in the adventure as each experience unfolds: the drives through all the middles-of-nowhere which blur together in fields you forget as soon as you pass them, miniature naps on hotel beds with the television softly lulling you into a dream, and then the newfound energy as the concert-goers fill the once-empty floors of the venue, somewhat anxiously nodding their heads to the familiar kicks and snares. With fatigue and mood swings as my enemies, but nearly everything else on my side, it's hard not to be excited about all the things to come.

09 September 2006

Caural - Lake (Official Video by Sean Capone)

Caural - Lake (from the album, Remembering Today on Mush Records)

Video conceived and executed by Sean Capone.

(From Seancapone.com): "A psycho-geographic sketchbook created using imagery shot solely with a cellphone camera and animated on a laptop. This production method reflects on the notion of the contemporary 'flaneur', who occupies both the informational and the physical space of the city. The cellphone screen is a metaphor and a tool for memory, digital/physical mobility, information-retrieval as nostalgia, and image making."


Contemporary Flânerie: Reconfiguring Cities
Detroit, MI, 2009

The Relentless Eye
Helen Day Art Center, VT, 2009

DISLOCATE 08 Festival
Yokohama, Tokyo, 2008

03 September 2006

Caural on Tour, in the Mix, and in Video

Somehow, it's September.

I think the rain this last week has done something to my brain, so thank God there's some sun on this Sunday afternoon to dry whatever it is away; luckily for me, I head to Los Angeles this Thursday and will probably get plenty of it there!

Friday, September 8th, 8:30PM:

Cocorosie with Busdriver and me
1735 N. Vine
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Next week, I will be putting a brand new set together with Busdriver incorporating material from his upcoming album on Epitaph, "Roadkill Overcoat," and heading out on a North American tour with Akrobatik (of the Perceptionists), and Pigeon John. I will also be doing a short opening set. For full venue details, please check my myspace page:

Caural, Akrobatik, Busdriver and Me, Pigeon John

Sept 15 San Francisco, CA @ BOCA
Sept 17 Reno, NV @ Club Underground
Sept 18 Sacramento, CA @ The Library
Sept 20 Arcada, CA @ Mazotti's
Sept 21 Portland, OR @ Berbati's Pan
Sept 22 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
Sept 23 Spokane, WA @ Mike Krock's Birthday Celebration
Sept 24 Salt Lake City, UT @ Club Ego's
Sept 25 Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre
Sept 26 Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
Sept 27 Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theatre
Sept 28 Minneapolis, MN @ Foundation
Sept 29 Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
Sept 30 Milwaukee, WI @ Stone Fly Brewery (aka Onopa)
Oct 1 Madison, WI @ Club Inferno
Oct 2 Chicago, IL @ Abbey Pub
Oct 3 Lawrence, KS @ The Record Bar
Oct 4 Austin, TX @ Emo's Lounge
Oct 5 San Antonio, TX @ Kingston Tycoon Flats
Oct 6 El Paso, TX @ House of Rock and Roll
Oct 7 Tucson, AZ @ Solar Culture
Oct 8 Scottsdale, AZ @ Chasers

A few more shows will follow back in California and, immediately following that, I will be joining my labelmates Daedelus and Thavius Beck on a Mush Tour, promoting my upcoming album "Mirrors for Eyes"; I will be posting those dates as soon as more are confirmed.

An exclusive Caural mix CD benefitting Chicago's homeless

On September 28th, Rock for Kids - a Chicago organization- will hold it's 4th Annual Music Mixer at Smart Bar. To raise money for Youth Jam (its music education program) they've asked a number of artists, DJs, music journalists, and promoters to contribute one-of-a-kind CD mixes which will be silently auctioned at the party, the contents kept secret until the winning bid is placed. With past contributors including Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and members of Tortoise, these exclusive mixes promise to be diverse and exciting. For complete details, please visit:


Caural on soundtrack for Graffiti DVD, "The Run Up"

Soon to be released by Triplewide Design Collective- in conjunction with Upper Playground and FIFTY24SF Gallery- is "The Run Up," a follow-up to their successful DVD, "Dithers." I am excited to have a great deal of my music included on this document of such amazing artists!

(from triplewide.net):

Featuring twenty-six of the most eminent artists of today, The Run Up, is a visual and historical representation of the contemporary art movement. Directors Shaun Roberts and Joey Garfield filmed the artists in a sequence of vignettes, where each segment reveals the artists visions and the inspirations behind their artwork.

Artists featured on The Run Up include: Herbert Baglione, Estevan Oriol, Cody Hudson, Chris Pastras, Mark Bode, Mr. Jago, Will Barras, Wes Humpston, Futura, Jeff Soto, Above, Kofie One, Heavyweight (HVW8), David Ellis, Ryan McGinness, José Parla, Swoon, Rostarr, Mister Cartoon, Maya Hayuk, Doze Green, WK Interact, Dzine, Jason Bass, Ron English, and Logan Hicks.

To view excerpts and trailers, visit:


New Caural video- Second Collaboration with Positron (aka Sean Capone)

Sean Capone just finished a beautiful video for "Lake," a song from my collection "Remembering Today," by meticulously manipulating and bringing to life imagery obtained solely with his cellphone. To view the piece and read his explanation, visit:


If you haven't seen it, you can also view our first collaboration here:


23 July 2006

Caural vs C-TRL Labs (NY) & New Releases

I hope you are all having a wonderful summer. I am writing from Chicago, and luckily it's cooled down a touch from the smoldering temperatures earlier this week. I just received the master for my new album, "Mirrors for Eyes," and am excited to announce it will be released 10.9 on Mush Records (www.mushrecords.com). This fall, I will be touring extensively- both solo, and with Busdriver- but here are some releases and an exciting multi-media performance to check out in the much-sooner future:

(from C-TRL Labs'):

Tuesday July 25th 8:30 PM

We're please to present a live video performance entitled "Roomiks Cube", a collaboration w/ audio artist Zachary Mastoon, AKA Caural.

Roomiks Cube is a multichannel A/V performance, part of the ongoing MUX A/V series. This rare event is a collaborative effort between live video performance artists C-TRL Labs and NY based electronic composer Caural. Specially tailored to Monkey Town's minimalist cubic interior, C-TRL will utilize motion graphics, 3D and realtime software (Modul8 and Max/MSP Jitter) to create an environmental extension to the existing architectural space. Caural sets the tone w/ flowing abstract compositions in a rich sonic space. The audience will be immersed in a whirl of architectural landscapes and organic forms in both performers playful experimental styles.

If you haven't experienced Monkeytown's excellent 4 channel screening room w/ 5.1 Audio, you're missing one of the best performance environments for experimental video of late. (Not to mention the excellent food!) Please join us!

Tues July 25th 8:30 PM (One screening only)
MonkeyTown, Brooklyn
58 N. 3rd St. @ Kent
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
RSVP: rsvp@monkeytownhq.com

For full details, check: http://monkeytownhq.com/muxjuly.html

Cookie & Brownie EP (Astrolab, Paris)

The opening track from my album, "Dead Armies" (which some of you downloaded from edIT's "Beat of the Week" on www.complexplayersclub.com) is on this exciting EP from Astrolab, a new label in Paris which is definitely one to watch.

(details from Boomkat.com):

Following on from the first 2 EPs with exclusive tracks by Shadowhuntaz,
Mike Ladd, Deceptikon, Pascal Schafer and the like, Cookie & Brownie .. 3 is a more electro hip hop oriented affair, with 4 brand new tracks from Caural (Chocolate Industries, Plug Research, Mush), Dimlite (Sonar Kollektiv, Plug Research), a big floor-friendly hip hop cut from stalwart LA underground producer Omid (featuring Ellay Khule), and relative newcomer Take with an instrumental of deep atmospheres. Solid twelve.

You can check out the 12" domestically with Groove Distribution:


Silverware: Audraglint's Fifth Anniversary Compilation

An old favorite track of mine, "Lime Green Transfer" now appears exclusively on this fantastic compilation on Audraglint (www.audraglint.com). To celebrate their fifth anniversary, they culled exclusive music from their roster, including Kid606, Tarwater, Nudge, Grizzly Bear (who just released a debut with Warp), Marc Hellner (of PulseProgramming), Stars as Eyes, Signaldrift, and many others. Available online and in stores, the compilation is well worth getting- immediately :)

That's all for the next few weeks. Stay tuned for much more this fall, including remixes and an exclusive CD mix I made for Rock For Kids, a Chicago-based organization benefitting the homeless.

01 July 2006


The Run-Up
Format: DVD

"All These Days Just Melt into Tomorrows," "Bleached Platinum," "Camphor," "Crush," "DJ Dren Charity Skoolin (Caural Remix)," "Explosive (Caural Mix)," "In Tandem," "Lake," "Mint & A Hospital Watercolor," "Red Sunshine," "Sipping Snake Blood Wine (Savath & Savalas Remix)," "Suicide," "Ultra Vivid," "Untitled," and " Your Memories on Television," appear throughout.

19 June 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] Silverware - Audraglint Fifth Anniversary Compilation

Silverware - Audraglint Fifth Anniversary Compilation
(Audraglint, 2006)
Format: CD

"Lime Green Transfer"

(exclusive track)

Notes: originally intended for the Paint EP, and instead was replaced by "In Between Thoughts"

01 June 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] Assemblage Sessions 2

Assemblage Sessions 2 (Abandon Building, 2006)
Format: CD

"Sea Monster (1997)"

Notes: This is a song I recorded with Transmission in Detroit, and was the basis for my song "Ultra Vivid" on Stars on My Ceiling.

10 May 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] DJ Dren: Charity Skoolin' (Caural Remix)

DJ Dren: Charity Skoolin' (Caural Remix)
Appears on: Delic Records Presents: Remixes of Pieces
(Delic Records, 2005)
Format: CD

Notes: due to an error in either spelling or translation, it is miscredited as "Chality Skoolin' - Coural remix, remixed by Coural."

09 May 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] Emulsion: Balloons & Centipedes (Caural's Sunburned Mix)

Emulsion: Balloons & Centipedes (Caural's Sunburned Mix)
Appears on: Blue Sky Remixes (Lens Records, 2008)
Format: Digital Only

04 May 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] K-Kruz: Time (Caural Remix)

K-Kruz: Time (Caural Remix)
Appears on: Time (Organik Recordings, 2006)
Format: 12" Single, Digital

Notes: used on Mirrors for Eyes and renamed "Only Time Will Know"


21 April 2006


Tuesday, Regan and I picked up Rob Sonic and Creature- a rapper who remembered meeting me at a Soul Position show two years ago- in the Bronx, and set out on our entirely-too-long-of-a-drive up to Hamilton, NY. We stopped at T.G.I. Fridays, a place Rob joked should've been called "F.U.C.K. Fridays," and marveled at the tacky red-and-white-striped decor. The staff outnumbered the customers nearly three to one, all dressed in red and giving each other high-fives as they walked between the empty tables or stood around in packs. Most of them were in their teens. Our waiter was white and was- possibly closeted or not- a homosexual with the worst cornrow hairdo I have ever seen. He looked like the kind of guy who was friends with thugs in a made-for-TV-movie that got beat up at some point, and you only felt half-bad watching it happen. He had a slight lisp.

Driving through the desolate upstate roads was almost scary. There were trailer parks, homes with wheels, and very few "towns" dotting the bland countryside. Some hunter could just chop you up and leave you in a river, and no one would ever know- or care! Farms were abundant, and I thought of [my friend] and how strange it must've been for her growing up in such a place, walking miles to a school where she had one friend and where her mother taught, and later how she'd come back to a chorus of crickets and make little cynical zines in her room while- before sunrise- her father would wake up to begin the day.

We finally made it to Colgate University, and saw where we were to play: outside of a girls' dorm where there were about 40 kids congregated near a small stage. We couldn't believe it: it couldn't get any stranger. Of course, it did... The show itself was great. I drank green tea provided by the young promoter, and ate a disgusting piece of pizza for dinner.


Following our performance which the cops had cut short due to the noise (we were also prohibited from swearing!), Rob and I had a cigarette, and then we all followed Regan and [omitted] to her house only blocks away. We drank her beer, smoked her weed, and hung out with her painfully awkward friend who bordered on mute. I was fully high and drunk by the time we left after midnight, and was ripping through a bag of pizza-flavored Combos and Creature's Pringles like gangbusters. We stopped at Taco Bell at 4:30 or so, and suddenly- after Regan listened to They Might Be Giants' album Flood to try and wake up- I found myself driving the last hour back to the Bronx with burning red eyes. I navigated through tolls and around trucks, eventually getting to Rob's apartment as the sun peeked through. Regan took the wheel again, and my eyes felt sewn shut with fatigue. I only opened them a couple times to see us driving seemingly in circles due to one-way streets, and we didn't get back to my apartment until 7:30 yesterday morning! I was a wreck: I slept until four then went to Crunch and tried to swim everything off.

The yerba mate I had at Tea Lounge with Regan and Danielle after our Geido dinner had me too wired, and I was unable to fall asleep. I need to get back on a schedule of sorts, and I also need to regain my optimism. I never quite lost it- it was just a little shrouded today. Tomorrow, we play a festival at SUNY Purchase, and it will be another brand new experience...

07 April 2006

[DISCOGRAPHY] Cookie & Brownie EP 3

Cookie & Brownie EP 3 (Astrolab, 2006)
Format: 12" Single

"Dead Armies"

(taken from the album Mirrors for Eyes)

26 March 2006

Upcoming Shows in Austin, LA & NY

"Don't Mess With Texas" is more than a saying on the label of the urine that is Lone Star beer: it is the truth. I tried messing with Texas- or at least had too good of a time there over the course of SXSW last week- and paid the price with a full-blown cold complete with headache, sore throat, and a runny nose which then became a sinus infection. But damn, I dare say it was worth it!

So, this Tuesday, I return to the lovely city of Austin for a show with Busdriver, and then spend the week in LA where I'll work on new music for my next record and play two Mush Showcases at the Echo. Later on in April, Busdriver and I will play a festival at SUNY Purchase with Prefuse 73, We Are Wolves, Pretty Girls Make Graves (we think) and other acts. Details for all shows are below:

Tuesday, March 28th, 9:PM doors
Red 7
611 E. 7th Street, Austin, TX 78701
Apparently, it's free if you are over 21 years of age; $10 for 18-20 year-olds

Busdriver with guest the Studemont Project

Friday, March 31st, 8:PM
Mush Records Showcase @ The Echo
1822 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
only $5

Thavius Beck, Daedelus, Bigg Jus, and Busdriver

Friday, April 7th, 8:PM
Mush Records Showcase @ The Echo
1822 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
only $5

Caural, Clue to Kalo, Nobody & The Mystic Chords of Memory, and the Electromagnetic

Friday, April 21st, 6:PM
SUNY Purchase Festival
735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY 10577

Busdriver, Prefuse 73, We Are Wolves, Pretty Girls Make Graves (we think), and possibly much more...

17 March 2006


"Don't Mess With Texas" is more than a saying on the label of the urine that is Lone Star beer: it is the truth. I tried messing with Texas- or at least had too good of a time there over the course of the last week- and am now paying the price with a full-blown cold complete with headache, sore throat, and a runny nose which has since becoming a sinus infection. But damn, I dare say it was worth it! And besides, having a cold is an excuse for a hiatus from alcohol, and that is absolutely what I need right now besides echinacea, water, and vitamin C.

I took an early flight out to Austin and met Regan at the airport. After grabbing the little Adidas dufflebag I checked, we shared a cab downtown with a DJ from Brooklyn named Spencer Product. We finally registered at the convention center after following a labyrinth of lines and booths winding round, and were given our badges and the beginnings of bands which would accumulate on our wrists over the course of the next few days. We also received a huge cloth bag of goodies including magazines, promo cdees, a toothbrush and toothpaste, one of the cheapest condoms I've ever laid eyes on, and- most random of all- a Roy Orbison CASSETTE!

We walked to Casino's, a biker bar nearby on 6th, and sat in the sunshine of the back patio. I ate chicken wings and drank my first few Lone Star's while reading over the schedule of music to follow- it was daunting! Suddenly, Nan Warshaw (head of Bloodshot Records but, more importantly, former head of Sound Exposure) walked in and joined friends at a table in back, and it was as if right then I felt a real thread within my life as a musician. There I was, readying to play a huge music festival in Texas, and there was the woman who had helped the then-teenaged Stuart and me organize our very first shows in Evanston. We had become colleagues in a way, and I felt proud. We spoke briefly, and I sat back down with Regan and continued to soak in the sun, calling Stuart to tell him the funny news.

Soon, we met Regan's friend Briana outside, and she drove us to her house. Briana and I clicked immediately- she is a very sweet girl. We sat in her living room watching the dazzling Sophia Choi on CNN news (at least, I found her to be dazzling), followed by some quality Family Guy episodes her roommate had recorded on his digital TV. We were starving and, after two misses in the restaurant department (both Hula Hut and Shady Grove were packed), we ate delicious Tex-Mex at nearby Maude's cafe. We took a short stroll around downtown and I was amazed at how busy it was even without the SXSW festivities beginning! I got some chai at a cute cafe called Halcyon, and then met Briana's adorable friend Krystle at the bayou behind Stubbs to secretly watch the Strokes! It was so nice- I had never heard them live and, although I obviously couldn't see them, it was nice to catch their show.

After getting kicked out of there by cops nice enough not to give us tickets (they were looking for crackheads), we went to Jackalope's for a few drinks. We all went to Briana's for more “Family Guy” but quickly passed out- I preferred the floor over the couch, but I am not sure I even had a choice.

The next day was insane and began very early. I drove Briana to work at 10, then returned to her house to check email and shower. I couldn't believe she had trusted her home and her car to a stranger, but that's just the kind of southern hospitality I'd grow to expect from Texans. Well, maybe not, but at least from her and her friends! Regan and I went to Guitar Center and I nearly bought a new mixer- only at the last minute to decide against it. We picked up Briana, ate some tacos at a nearby haunt which had a mountain of taco meat on the grill (not as appetizing as it sounds, believe me!), then began the show-hopping.

We left the first show almost immediately and went to a large tent on Red River and 6th to see Awol One. Briana had to meet up with her friend, and I waited with her on the corner. Louise of Fringe Benefits was going to meet me there as well, so we just stood and watched the crowds go by. A gorgeous brunette and I made eye-contact as she approached, and then I realized it was Briana's friend! Isn't it lovely how that happens? I told them I'd wait for Louise and meet them inside.

Louise took forever, so I went across the street and bought a Sparks. When she arrived, conversation was difficult through all the noise, and became even harder when Steven and his friends showed up. Regan was ready to leave and, to make a long story short, I never really listened to a single song in the set and left with Briana, her brunette friend Sara, and Steven, losing Louise in the process. We walked in the wrong direction towards the next showcase, but got to talk and all get to know each other a little better.

We walked for quite some time, passed underneath the freeway, and finally arrived at Ms Bea's Bar for a showcase of Brooklyn bands put together by Brooklyn promoter Todd P. We watched the Double while I bought beer after beer, and I ran into Chris- a writer at CMJ and a drummer of the band Parts & Labor- and his friend Poingly whom I had apparently met at the Books On Tape CMJ showcase last year. After the Double's final song, a van pulled up out of nowhere and- as quickly as a white banner was lowered down its side with the name "Teenage Harlets" [sic] spray-painted in pink- a band jumped out and started to play. The singer flailed violently with the microphone around the dusty parking lot as his bandmates accompanied him on bass, keyboard, a mint green Fender Jazzmaster and, from inside the van, a full drum set. The audience moved from the bar's patio to the lot for the band's set of 4 short songs, standing in awe with bottles of Shiner Bock. Then, as rapidly as they had come, the banner was raised and they jumped in the van, speeding away to their next destination. I imagined they were the only band to do a "tour" of SXSW!

The next band, Night by Night, was brash and started off the set by spraying the crowd with Budweiser. Although they were fun, it was time to move on to the next destination. We all split up, and I went with Steven and his friend Fernando to a showcase on 6th street where they were to film the band Gracer. I, too, took a ton of photos and wandered around the stage with only toilet paper to help block out the deafening noise from my ears. By this point, I was chugging water trying to sober up: it didn't occur to me until much later that I hadn't eaten dinner, so the alcohol was going straight to my head.
From there, it was off to Stubbs for the Matador Records showcase, and a terribly boring set by the New Pornographers. Steven and Fernando bought vile smelling food from a stand, and we walked upstairs to somehow enter the VIP area in time for Belle & Sebastian! The venue was packed and we had a comfortable space in which to watch, and new smiles were constantly being illuminated in camera flashes. Eli Reitz was there, and I soon remembered he played in a band called Bright Black Morning Light who had performed prior to our arrival! We caught up and drank together and, by the time Mogwai were halfway through their set, he had vanished. Soon enough, I was walking together to the ATX magazine after-party down the street to meet Briana, Sara, and Regan.


I sat down with Sara and Briana to take drunken photos. Cops came to break up the party, so we all piled into Briana's car and headed home to Neil Young's "Helpless" as Sara and I traded an imaginary mic back and forth for the chorus. Regan passed out on the couch, and I stayed up with the two girls until almost 6. Eventually, I curled up on the floor in the living room again and fell asleep.

The next day was Thursday, the day of our showcase. It's funny- I had been having such a good time partying and seeing other people's shows that I couldn't have cared less about my show that evening! At least, that's how I felt in the morning as Sara came out in tiny shorts, furry boots, and a tight tee-shirt and asked me if she looked cute. She put on an adorable dress with a striped black and white top, and I sat hungover on the lazy boy next to her as she applied make-up, glancing over at me every so often with a smirk. We all went to Halcyon together, and I bought Briana lunch- it was her birthday that day.

We piled in the car and drove to a new parking spot on top of a hill, and Sara and I skipped together around the streets like schoolchildren. We went to Stubbs for the L Michaels Affair (Nick Movshon & Leon's band, featuring Stuart Bogie and AJ from Antibalas on the horns) and Wu Tang Clan! I found it so strange that my oldest friend was playing with the fucking Wu, but life just keeps getting stranger, doesn't it? Regan took off, and Briana and I went to the VIP section in the balcony. The show was fun, and Thavius, Subtitle, Bigg Jus, Matt (AntiMC) and others from Mush were milling about. There was a BBQ buffet which was unfortunately mediocre, but Briana and I ate nonetheless. Sara had gone back to change clothes, but soon returned to meet us in a mini skirt, white tee, and tall boots. Jesus.

We went to see The Ponys, and only caught their last song which was incredibly loud. Sara treated me to a Push-Pop and a Red Bull, and then it was time to say goodbye. I got dropped off at what I thought would be my soundcheck at Zero Degrees, but we soon learned there wouldn't be any... One by one, the Mush artists arrived. It was great seeing Daedelus, and the guys from Clue to Kalo were so amazingly nice! Really, everyone was nice. Since we weren't doing soundchecks, I nervously and almost reluctantly left to go to the Vice Magazine party.

It was a longer walk than I thought, but out of nowhere, a car pulled up and I heard my name called: it was Raedawn and Tes! I rolled with them to the packed party on 11th street. Now, I had heard there were sound problems with the last act (Spank Rock), so I was hoping they had been resolved. I had no idea what I was in for... The first 15 minutes I was there, a guy on stage repeatedly tried to play a track, and it kept cutting out. Lady Sovereign was nowhere to be seen, and people were becoming agitated. 20 minutes of strange stops and starts later, she came out on stage in all the glory her five-foot-frame could muster. The show was a disaster. I have no idea why on earth it was happening- perhaps some kind of a limiter turned on if the music reached a certain volume?- but two bars in to almost each song, the music mysteriously stopped without warning. People were booing a bit, but we knew it wasn't her fault. It was rectified for a couple of songs and then, on what she announced was her "favorite song," it happened again. She sat down on the stage, folded her arms across her chest, and pouted: it was so tragically cute!

Tes and I lingered outside, chatting with Spankrock, Kid 606, and Drop The Lime while Raedawn was dawdling inside. They drove me- and some random straggler- down to 6th street, and I walked inside to a horrendous performance by someone whose name now escapes me. Anyway, I had borrowed the mixer from Bigg Jus' guy Jon, so it was all good. My excitement level was rising, and Sara texted me to let me know she and Krystle were outside just as I was getting everything ready. I escorted them in, and disappeared to the side of the stage while Thavius and Subtitle opened the show.

By the time I went on twenty minutes later, Robert informed me that we were at capacity! I did an impromptu birthday song for Briana and got the clubgoers to sing along! Then, my set went by in a flash. Once I finished, Robert informed me he sold out of my cdees during my set! I was so happy! I spoke with a few folks, sold merch, drank a couple beers, and sold a couple extra copies of my CD myself. Busdriver and I set up at a feverish pace- Clue To Kalo had taken forever to set up, and the set-times were all pushed back. We managed to do well although we were cut short, and I was sweating profusely. Swollen Members were on after us, and we had to take everything apart as quickly as possible which of course I hate doing.

It was beautiful outside. We smoked a one-hitter on the street with one of Jus' djays, and I sat down a touch stoned with a tired Sara bobbing her head back and forth as she looked at the streetlights through special rainbow glasses. Our showcase was a success- it was so wonderful. Briana had gotten much higher than I did, and was having an enthusiastic exchange with Robert about Neil Young. Krystle was sleepy as well- it was Briana and I who were wired. The five of us- Regan, Krystle, Sara, Briana, and I- piled into the car, and I sat a little crunched in with Sara and Krystle in the back. There was a bottle of Jack, and Sara poured me way too much in a cup- I still obliged, of course.

Sara and Krystle were too tired to come out (it was 2 in the morning by the time we dropped our stuff off), so Briana and Regan and I headed out for a last hoorah: the Tigerbeat 6/TTC afterparty at Karma Lounge. I started getting exhausted and, after meeting the guys from TTC, I sat with Briana and listened to Vivian Host from XLR8R & Drop The Lime play some fun booty house. There were a few fashionista girls who were quite lovely but, besides the fact that I think they were with the TTC guys, I was ultimately so tired I didn't want to pursue anything anyway. Besides, the DJ from Spank Rock fell over dancing about a foot away from someone sleeping near the DJ booth, and that was an early cue to leave. We stayed for a while longer as DJ Orgasmic played some great tracks from their Institubes label, then went to Kerby Lane (where Briana's tattooed roommate Jennifer works as a waitress) and had a very late night/early morning meal of Tex-Mex. It was delicious, but something about eating tacos at nearly five in the morning just CAN'T be a good idea no matter how you look at it!

Regan's cab took forever to come, but finally we were on the way home. Krystle was awake when we returned, laying on the couch and reading, while Sara was fast asleep in the other room.

I'll never understand why, but I was awake at 9:30 and couldn't fall back asleep. After a half an hour of laying on the couch and realizing sleep was beyond me, I went into Briana's room where she and Sara were already giggling on the internet. We looked at pictures together, listened to some music, and then all got ready to go. Krystle took forever to get there, and Sara was eager to go to a concert; I offered to go with her. We walked around 6th street together, stopping in a bar and having free quesadillas and queso while we talked about our lives.

Krystle and Briana met up with us a little too soon. We saw Gogogo Airheart perform with Subtitle and Thavius Beck and ate disgusting barbeque, and I sipped on Sara's vodka. Matt from Mush was to drive Daedelus and me to the airport, so it was time for goodbyes. There was so much more going on in Austin that weekend but- before I knew it- I was on a plane whose wheels were touching down in NY.

11 March 2006

SXSW & Other Updates

It's hard to believe it's only been 10 days since I returned from touring with Busdriver, RJD2, and Aceyalone. It was wonderful traveling and seeing friends (and family) in so many different cities- and now it's time for SXSW!

Mush Showcase @ SXSW

I leave on Tuesday for Texas, and am excited to play in the Mush Records Showcase this year- both solo, and with Busdriver. If you are in Austin, please come and say hello! Here are the details:

Thursday, March 16th, 10:PM - 1:AM
Mush Records Showcase @ Zero Degrees
405 E 7th St. in Austin

Bigg Jus
Clue to Kalo
Thavius Beck

If you Texans miss out on this show, I will be back in Austin on the 28th to play with Busdriver- more on that later.

Caural (Streaming Audio Interview) On Dailysonic

Just before leaving for Los Angeles last month, I had the pleasure of drinking whisky and recording an interview with Dailysonic, a webzine based here in NY. Listening back to it, I shuddered at the effect whisky had on my usage of the word "like," embarrassingly making me reach "valley girl" status. Regardless, it's a short and fun spot where I talk a little about music, meditating, and sound, and you can hear some mellow sounds of mine in the background! Thanks to Aaron and Adam at Dailysonic for making it happen:

http://www.dailysonic.com/segment1058 [This is a permanent link]

Video Art vs My Music

I am excited to announce that my friend Sean Capone (aka Positron) has made a wonderful, short video piece based on a song of mine and, while it's in transit to some potential galleries and shows, you can view it online here:


When Sean isn't busy making video installations for Prada runway shows in Milan or doing motion graphics for films, he manages to fit in a million creative projects of his own. This is our first audio/visual collaboration. You can view his 2005 demo reel (and see me playing with virtual space) here:


New Remix out soon on Organik

On March 23rd, my friend and old-school collaborator K-Kruz will release his debut solo EP "Time" on Organik Recordings. Keith has done production for Diverse and Longshot, moonlights as a drummer for The National Trust (Thrill Jockey) and has most recently released a full-length with Modill, including Dave from De La Soul, Truth Enola, Diverse, and his partner-in-crime Racecar. This vinyl EP features three instrumentals and one vocal (handled by the illustrious Jacob Croegaert), as well as two remixes of the title track: one by me, and one by my good friend Take. For fans of colored vinyl, Turntable Lab will exclusively be carrying the clear vinyl version, as they do with all of Organik's releases:


That's all for now- I'll be coming out west for some dates in late March/early April, ending in LA at the Echo on April 7th, and I'll let you know as it gets a little closer. Later on in April, I'll be performing in and around NY, so stay tuned!

03 March 2006

08 February 2006

February Tour with Busdriver, RJD2 and Aceyalone/Other News

I am leaving NY this friday to spend a week in LA preparing for my labelmate Busdriver’s tour with RJD2 and Aceyalone. I will be touring as Busdriver’s accompanist, and he and I will be developing a set together with my trusty sampler and laptop; I am grateful for this opportunity and think it should be a lot of fun! The tour will last until the end of the month, and will take us to the fine establishments listed below:

Caural & Busdriver opening for RJD2 & Aceyalone

02/17/2006 10:00 PM - the El Ray Theatre (Los Angeles)

5515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036,US

02/18/2006 10:00 PM - the Independent (San Francisco)

628 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA 94117,US

02/22/2006 10:00 PM - the Fox Theatre (Boulder)

1135 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302,US

02/24/2006 10:00 PM - Metro (Chicago)

3730 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60601,US

02/25/2006 08:00 PM - Phoenix Concert Theater (Toronto)

410 Shelbourne Street, Toronto, ON Canada

02/26/2006 09:00 PM - Avalon (NYC)

47 W. 20th Street, New York, NY 10011,US

02/27/2006 08:00 PM - Beyond (Philadelphia)

338 N. 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107,US

For complete details, check the listings in your area. I’d love to see you guys there and maybe even have the pleasure of sleeping on your couch!

March will bring me to SXSW for the Mush Records showcase, and more is developing for late March (either a short west coast tour and/or Winter Music Conference in Miami).

Meanwhile, I am working on my new album for Mush entitled “Mirrors For Eyes,” and will be starting a remix for Outputmessage, a new artist on Melodic (UK). For the DJs on this list, you (hopefully) know him from the incredible remix he did of Dabrye’s track “Hyped-Up Plus Tax” from the Payback 12″ on Ghostly.

In the next couple of months, there’ll be some new and old songs/remixes of mine released on Organik Recordings, Astro Lab (France), Audraglint, and Abandon Building- I’ll write more on these when the release dates become a little closer.

That’s all for now. I hope your new year is off to a great start and, for those of you in the cities I’ll be visiting shortly, I hope to see you soon!

23 January 2006


Does anyone else realize how brilliant Mazzy Star's album "So Tonight That I May See" is? That is just an aside for those wanting an aside...

I returned home this afternoon via a Greyhound Bus from Shelburne, Massachusetts a somewhat delirious and detached person: I spent the last 10 days of my life in my first Vipassana Meditation retreat. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect, and I think that I was both pleasantly- and unpleasantly- surprised.

For those unfamiliar with the practice, Vipassana is a meditation technique which had been preserved in Burma from the time of Buddha, and returned to India- and then introduced to the western world- by a man named S.N. Goenka. There are now centers globally, and the operations of each are based solely on donations without any advertising campaign besides word-of-mouth. Appropriately, a girl I went out with this fall told me about it.

And so, two weeks ago I consulted the website and packed accordingly. It was fairly easy since a student is not allowed anything besides his or her mind. What do I mean, you ask? Besides forbidding the obvious- cell phone, iPods, computers, television, etc.- you are allowed no reading or writing materials, no religious objects, no additional food or drink, and are not permitted to practice any other techniques during the course (yoga, alternate prayers and rites, visualizations, counting rosary beads, etc.). I showed up with nothing except for a couple pairs of sweatpants and tee-shirts, then packed blankets, soap, shampoo, lotion, and deodorant. Upon arrival, I checked-in a pack of Orbitz cinnamon gum and some almonds I had brought on the bus as valuables!

Besides this, a student is to have no vocal- or eye-contact with anyone and signs a waiver declaring his or her concordance with that and other regulations. I was assigned a room with two other students, one of whom was an unfortunately naive herb who seemed most impressed by the fact that Rivers Cuomo of Weezer was on the course. He thankfully stopped talking like the rest of us, and we began our schedule the following morning:

4:00 AM: Awaken

4:30-6:30: Meditate privately

6:30: Breakfast

8:00-9:00: Group Meditation

9:00-11:00: Continue Meditating on your own

11:00-12:00: Lunch

12:00- 1:00: Rest and interviews with the teacher (if desired)

1:00-2:30: Continue to meditate on your own

2:30-3:30: Group Meditation

3:30-5:00: Continue to meditate on your own

5:00-6:00: Tea break

6:00-7:00: Group Meditation

7:00-8:15: Discourse

8:15-9:00: Group Meditation

9:00-9:30: Optional Question time in the hall

9:30 PM: Retire

If you do the math, you meditate about 12 hours a day, eat two meals [old students take only tea at Tea Break while new students can have a little fruit] and have the opportunity to either walk around in a designated area with signs to demarcate boundaries, meditate, or sleep during your breaks. That is all.

For the first 3 and a half days, we focused entirely on our breath, remaining aware of it passing "out of the left nostril, the right nostril, or perhaps simultaneously out of both the nostrils." All of our instruction was delivered on CD in a somewhat strained dead-pan from Goenka himself. There was an assistant teacher who was in charge of pressing play, stop, etc., and of course she herself would sit the meditations and answer questions posed privately in the quietest voice possible. She would ask all the male students or female students to remain after the mandatory group sittings in the hall to insure we were all understanding the instructions. On the second day, I was bored senseless.

Yet, each of the discourses (video presentations of Goenka broadcast on two screens at the front of the hall) addressed the frustrations I was experiencing day-to-day, reassuring me that my issues seemed to be universal impediments to the goal of remaining "on the path of Dhamma." They did little for the obsessed Weezer fan who became too overwhelmed and frustrated with the poor choice for his scholastic winter break, and he left the course on the beginning of the fifth day (students abandoning prior to course completion is common). The remaining roommate and I returned to our room that evening, shrugged our shoulders, and fell asleep.

The practice of Vipassana itself was intense. It relies on the kind of concept that you'd never really think of yourself but, when hearing it articulated, seems plainly obvious: it is our bodily sensations which create cravings or aversions to objects outside of ourselves and, if we are able to observe their transient nature of arising and passing while maintaining equanimity, we will no longer develop conditioned responses and thus end our cycle of being "miserable." So, in these terms, when I think of someone I want to sleep with, it's not so much the specific girl I want, but the sensations of sex I experience just thinking about it. Or, if I want to buy a Ferrari to make myself happy, the Ferrari is of no consequence: it is really the excitement of acquiring an expensive object to call "mine."

Ok. I assume everyone reading this has even a vague and basic concept of Buddhism and what it entails, right? Good. Moving on...

Bodily sensations conveniently correlate with human nature's cravings but, when observed to serve a more practical function (God forbid you want to fuck the whole morality part of Dhamma and continue drinking and having sex), they also impact our reactions to others. When our girlfriends invent these delusional fantasies and insist we want to sleep with every female who sends us a text message, or cry and want to prohibit us from attending another girl's party without a chaperone she herself designates (just a hypothetical example, I swear!), we may want to scream that they are insecure, jealous lunatics who should get the hell out of our lives immediately but leave their cat behind. Yet, that would only be reacting to the uncomfortable sensations within us; therefore, we remain aware of our respiration, and eventually cultivate compassion and infinite love- after we leave them.

If I weren't drunk, I wouldn't be being so sarcastic. But, airing dirty laundry aside, you can see the truth: if we meditate using this recommended technique- passively observing sensations as they arise and pass- these notions of impermanence are now comprehended on an experiential level, and our unconscious mind's old stock of Sankaras (conditioned responses) become feebler and eventually die.

In the sittings, Sankaras manifest as pains, and dealing with them becomes very difficult to say the least. Meanwhile, since we are now focusing our full attention on sensations which were normally only attended by our unconscious, that sub-level of our mind rises to the surface and irrevocably changes our perception of reality. At moments, I experienced states similar to those during the onset of acid. This was fine, but imagine when the trip starts to go badly, and you can't communicate that with anyone! You are alone in your head, circling outside in sweatpants slowly soaking up the mud and gravel and, feeling the cold of new england's winter through the soles of your sneakers, you can't even call home to make sure your one remaining parent is still alive. All these fantasies swirl, and you follow their now-strong sensations round-and-round in your chest, watching as they wrap around your sore spine and escape in your breath like exhaust.

One night I had a full-blown panic attack. I lay in bed, my heartbeat reverberating upwards into my cheeks, and I saw imagery from thoughts which weren't mine. Getting ready for her bedtime, a little girl took out her eyes in front of a mirror then sawed off her lower jaw with dental floss before going to her parents' room to say goodnight- over and over again. Then my mom's skull with darkened black eyes, then an imaginary halloween, her wearing face paint of a skull yet dead anyway. Then my father hugging an image of her evaporating in wispy ash before he himself turned to dust. All I felt was my heart all over my body, pounding maniacally and futilely as if it were wounded, bleeding rather than distributing blood.

I went into the light of the hall, convinced of ghosts in my room. I concentrated on the floor's colored diamond tiles, then thought of knocking on the course manager's door and inquiring just what in the fuck was going on. I managed to slip back in bed and fall asleep to bizarre dreams before waking up to my roommate's sleep-talk in a different language... Then I immediately hallucinated an entire sequence of what I believed were blurred satanic symbols in black crayon, one of which was a bird with eyes on its wings. And, in early morning, I sat upright in bed during a paranoid episode where whom I thought was the course manager entered my bathroom and put poison on my fucking toothbrush! God, I wish I were joking... I said his name out loud three times accusingly from my bed before my entirely confused roommate exited the room with his hands up in the air, refusing to break the code of silence.

Then, things changed. The next day was positive. And up and down my moods continued, arising and passing. I was having no trouble not talking to anyone; I felt I could do this for the rest of my life. Then on the seventh day, thinking of Brooklyn in summer, thinking of my friends and family, feeling so happy and lucky walking around in the sun and listening to ice melt. Then, I was so fucking bored again, my knees hurting and my heart racing, kneeling in deafening silence amongst strangers draped in blankets and shawls, hearing chanting from speakers and the vegetarian food digesting in stomachs all around me. Then a smile, a stifled laugh, a pain in my ribs, my thoughts coming in between breaths and sensations. Remembering the little frame of the Weezer singer in the front row, getting "Buddy Holly" in my head as I passed imaginary objects through my body to feel their sensations. I wasn't supposed to be visualizing anything- I was breaking the rules. "Why all these homies dissing my girl? Why do they gotta front?" I felt the backs of my eyeballs, each toe...

In the end, it was a technique: a technique one can use to focus the mind and remain a little more positive. But, with Goenka's repetitive and puritanical ramblings, it was presented as a hypocritical philosophy that- while rightfully eschewing negative aspects of religion and the ensuing blind faith of its devotees- propagated an identical discourse by outlining very specific precepts one is to follow and then delineating a course of action for you to experience "real happiness, real peace." I didn't enjoy bowing to a television set, nor did I enjoy hearing that if I first ignored aspects of Sila (moral precepts) and LATER REALIZED THEY WERE RIGHT, I'd get back on "correct" path of Dhamma. And so, out of its initial premise of being non-sectarian, Goenka praised specific interpretations of Siddharta's teachings, and he declared those to be the "pure" Buddhism... God, this sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it?

Though now I am home. I've been up 24 hours, ignoring sleep on the bus to Port Authority this morning to talk and then guiltily watch "Hitched" with Wil Smith and Eva Mendez. The subway ride back was difficult since the everyday noises all around me were now strangely foreign, but after some sake with dinner, my code of Sila was broken, and I re-entered the world I remembered with my eyes opened a little wider than before.