Albert Hofmann . . .
Jan P. Dennis | Monument, CO USA | 03/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
". . . discoverer of LSD, and its self-appointed apostle and fundamentalist evangelist. That's what's behind this very strange disc. What we've got here is instrumental improv around some Hofmann text fragments. Here are some of the song titles: "Psychedelic Induced Revelations," "LSD Came to Me," "Creative Spirit of God," Mystery of the Matter," "LSD Must Come to You," and "This Fundamental Truth."
For a Catholic Christian (as I am), the idea that there's a kind of eighth sacrament, LSD, that opens the self to a deeper reality is nearly incomprehensible. Don't we have the seven sacraments to do that for us, to restore our true humanity, lost by our disobedience, and thereby become partakers of the divine nature (as St. Peter puts it)? In religious terms, Hofmann is a kind of priest of God, who through chemistry transubstantiates ergot into the sacrament LSD. Since he has been enlightened by this sacrament, he wants to share this gift with all people. Here are some examples of his thought: "I see the true importance of LSD in the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality. Such a use accords entirely with the essence and working character of LSD as a sacred drug." And we find this statement as part of the sleeve packaging: "Dr. Albert Hofmann, Ph.D., Dr. Pharm. (Hon.), Dr. Sc.Nat.(Hon.), is the Swiss chemist who contributed greatly to human evolution through his discovery of LSD."
Thus Albert Hofmann is not only a priest, he's a prophet of a new religion, the religion of LSD, which is contributing greatly to human evolution and, one supposes, aiding humanity to achieve its true end. Personally, I'm more than a little curious about the starkly religious character of Hofmann's self-understanding about LSD revealed in phrases like "creative spirit of God," "LSD came to me," "LSD must come to you," "the essence and character of LSD as a sacred drug," etc. For someone like me, this raises a host of questions: What are the metaphysics, the epistemology, and the eschatology of the religion of LSD? A partial answer may lie in the Elephant-God art accompanying this disc; one supposes some sort of tie-in with East Indian religious understandings and sensibilities.
What is one to make of all of this? Well, it sure ain't Jerry Garcia and the boys gettin' high, much less their jam-band wannabees, nor is it bad boy Jim Morrison dabbling with opening Huxley's doors of perception. Nor even Tim Leary's tune in, turn on, drop out, nor even Baba Ram Das. No, this is the straight dope (so to speak), industrial strength, full bore psychedelia as religion.
Certainly, one feels more akin to a genuine quest for transcendence as in a project like this, deluded though it be, than to the cheap pop-culture drug scene it spawned. Yet isn't there something horribly wrong with a human-centered quest for transcendence . . . through drugs? Better living through chemistry, indeed.
About the music. Since probably less than five percent of the disc contains the ipse dixit of Albert Hofmann, one can almost ignore the words themselves, thankfully rather indecipherable due to the man's heavy accent. Almost but not quite. After all, the gospel of LSD, and the desire to spread the good news to non-believers, is at the heart of this disc. Hard to ignore that. And, despite how compelling the music is, I can't give it five stars because of the heavy-handed religious thrust of this entire project.
Make no mistake, the music itself is brilliant. Featuring three of the finest practitioners of "out" jazz, Mark Nauseef (percussion and cheap Casio), Ikue Mori (computer), and Sylvie Courvoisier (piano and prepared piano), plus the recording and mixing genius of Walter Quintus, this is bracing, highly intelligent, strangely beautiful, and largely (I think) group-composed and -improvised music. If there weren't the goofy idea and packaging behind it, I wouldn't hesitate to give it five stars. In any case, despite the unfortunate context out of which this music arises, I have nothing but praise for the sounds that flow from my speakers (sans the silly narrative fragments, of course).
So, although I can't give it my unreserved recommendation, it is still music worth encountering. And I encourage you to seek out these artists in other, less problematic, settings."