Himalayan Bear — The Nature of the Record

Himalayan Bear


Evan Tyler — IBG correspondent from the GWN of Canada (evantyler.ca)

Recently I had a dream that I was part of an experimental therapeutic retreat where we sat in a circle for hours, a group of damaged people cross talking about our feelings.

If someone said something that hurt someone else’s feelings in the group, we would remain in the circle and talk about it until no one’s feelings were hurt anymore. This scenario got incredibly complicated and frustrating at times. For example, often various people’s feelings were hurt, and for different reasons.

Sometimes it took so long to find a universal resolution that we missed lunch and dinner. By the end of the day, our blood sugar would be so low that our values and opinions wilted into pathetic limp leaves of desperation. If there was more than one issue on the table, which often happens with cross talking, then we could be up all night. Sometimes this would lead to intense hallucinations and various forms of psychoses. More often that, the world morphed into a vivid palette of psychedelic pastel colors dancing on bucolic fields of browns, golds, reds and greens.

If I could modify this dream at all, I would instate Himalayan Bear’s most recent release, Pastoral Memoria, as the soundtrack to the color-twisting thought shapes and events that grew out of such madness.

Himalayan Bear Studies Contrasts

Ryan Beattie’s two-man musical co-op out of Victoria, B.C., Canada, offers something nostalgic yet foreign, comforting but haunting, gentle to cutthroat.

I could go on with contrasting descriptors, and I’d have a nice time with it, but let’s explore the actual content. In the opening number, “Death Trance,” Beattie sings like a ghostly apparition in a misty lagoon: “Like a lighthouse that invites its storm / or a guitar that howls / and breaks a dithering silence when it’s born.”

These lyrics are at the epicenter of Himalayan Bear’s gilded spirit, which is to mobilize, safeguard, and invite the natural consequences of any gesture. Moments become more than fleeting and fragile experiences.

In “Thunderless Golden Light for the Blue Fog of my Mind,” (my favourite song title of 2016), a field recording extracted from the jungle around Ke Ahu a Laka Heiau, Hawaii, offers a warm textural layer of sound translating as pure gratitude for the passing and appreciation of the moment.

I had the privilege of corresponding with Beattie regarding his thoughts on the nature of this record. In his words:

“I’ve been getting into field recording over the past few years and the thing I love most about it is the sense of hearing the moment turn into memory. The melancholic beauty of the process of documenting moments in sound that would otherwise just pass, has become a lovely act to me.”

Pastoral Memoria is a play on the musical term “pastoral,” a tender melody that typically signifies a piece of music about nature. It is a charmingly slowly paced album.

I played it as I prepared a stir fry dinner for friends in the countryside close to Syracuse, New York. As I listened, simultaneously concentrating on the cutting of onions and observing the blissful six cats I could see with my peripheral vision resting by the patio door, I found myself in a place both focused and open to suggestion. Pure simultaneity.

On the stand-out track, “When I Hear Hawaiian Music,” drummer Marek Tyler’s soft step live-drumming provides a pothole-free bus ride along Beattie’s vocal reassurance that the contemporary, more often than we expect, looks behind its shoulder to more traditional romanticisms of a world we all feel we once knew in a past life. Even if you haven’t been to Hawaii, you have. Déjà vu. A reanimated Hawaii stands tall next to the postcard Hawaii.

Fitting with my earlier dream, Himalayan Bear close this body of work with an ethereal road trip (or space voyage) track titled “Crazy Dreams.” Perhaps a dream is just temporary insanity: thoughts, shapes, visions, feelings rearranged into a frenetic movie in your head. Beattie kicks off with vocals that announce: “It’s true, you’re a sucker for a sentimental song.”

Well, you got me there, Himalayan Bear. And this is the well-appointed genius of this album — one cannot help but feel sentimental, longing, and nostalgia for something that feels one part familiar and warm to another part offshore and estranged.

The divergence between the two spheres is where Pastoral Memoria exists.

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