For today’s Fungasm Friday, we’re gonna take a day off from books to celebrate independent artists kicking ass at the musical end of the spectrum.
Case in point: the astonishing debut album by avant/jazz/metal ensemble Burning Ghosts. It’s being released today by Orenda Records, a label which has for the past several years specialized in the boundary-breaking sounds unleashing from L.A.’s creative underground.
When Daniel Rosenboom asked me to write the liner notes for his new band’s new album, I was delighted to oblige. The man’s an authentic musical genius: on the trumpet, as a composer, a bandleader, and the brains behind Orenda. And the second those new tracks poured into my ears, and we discussed the soul and intent behind them, I went upstairs and wrote the following words.
[CLICK BELOW for “Manifesto”, the debut video from BURNING GHOSTS. And check PT. II, coming right up, featuring an interview with the man and links for more info!]
THE BURNING GHOSTS
Black smoke curls through the blood red sky, laced with blue and white and sheer darkness above. Below, the streets are aflame like they haven’t burned since Rodney King. Or more to the point, Watts in 1965.
Injustice has a smell. You can ignore it if you want. Ignore it if you can. Like a fart in a room. Be polite all you want. Doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
Injustice has a voice. It is not always heard. But it has to be deliberately ignored to be missed.
Because it’s already there. You can hear it scream, cutting through all the din between you and the bland-but-jittery obfuscating fabric of ordinary life. Hear it cry. Hear it rage. Hear it dance to its own rhythms. Laugh. Find its power. Peel the clay from off its feet.
It has a voice like a horn that sings straight from the soul. Slices through the cacophony. Tells you just who it is. Evoking every emotion there is.
And all around it stand the burning ghosts of America.
The streets are alive with flaming specters, their sorrow etched in fire. They are the ones who passed before us. Who stood up and got mowed down for their trouble. Who never stood up, got mowed down anyway. Who barely got a chance to even stand before they were leveled low.
These are the ghosts that flame amongst the living. Who haunt us every step of the way. Whether we ignore their fire, pretend that fart never happened, is entirely our call.
But the dead call to us. And what they’re saying is this:
SET YOURSELF ON FIRE, WHILE YOU’RE STILL ALIVE TO DO SO.
The flaming ghosts of the past are only here to inspire and inform. It’s the only toehold they have left on a world they no longer inhabit. Memories. Legacies. Priceless artifacts, if we’re lucky enough to have preserved them.
They had their day.
But this is ours.
And lemme just say: the full weight of legacy burns through every note on this frankly astonishing set. The world we inhabited. The world we’re in now. Like Miles Davis and King Crimson went to Ornette Coleman’s house, where Frank Zappa, Ennio Morriccone, and Buckethead were also ready to jam with every other great musician who ever lived. Said “Let’s pretend the world matters.” And took it all the way to town from there.
It weirdly smells like the calamitous last half of the 1960s to me, in the very best way. Only fifty years later.
And with new artists, entirely on fire. Burning both like forever and like never before.
I don’t know if you believe in the human soul. But I do. It’s not belief. It’s just human experience. One soul ignites another. I’ve seen it over and over. That’s just the the way life is.
This is how we keep the torch alive, even as the coppery tang of blood on our streets cuts through the chaos of this world like a trumpet’s scream.
If you can hear it, taste it, smell it, you know what it is. Every ear, nose, and tongue knows something’s up when history awakens to itself.
Let’s not fool ourselves, boys and girls. Shit just got real. Has never been realer than now.
We’re at another pivot point in history. And whether this smoke in the air smells like revolution, evolution, devolution, total apocalyptic disaster – or all of the above, in competing measure – if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the time has come to put all all of our flame-squirting cards on the table. Just lay it all out. See it all for what it is. Whether we like it or not. It’s the only hope in either heaven or hell we have of ever fucking clearing the air.
And if that wild trumpeting voice of the soul has anything real and important to tell us – surrounded as it is by all the burning, long-suffering ghosts of America, from beginning to end – it’s that this life matters. Every moment. Every beat. Every laugh and cry and scream. Every tenderness and triumph.
That’s the voice I carry with me every step of the way to wherever we’re going. And why I love this singular gift of purest soul fire.
Get ready to light yourself up, baby.
Because the time has come.
Yer pal in the trenches,