Throughout last year, I kept hearing the name Guardian Alien. At first I wasn’t at all curious. The band name led me to the assumption that it was “some sort of dubstep or chillwave thing,” and its record sleeve—a watercolor drawing of an alien with dreadlocks, holding a repeating version of the record itself—was easily one of the most unfortunate album covers I’ve come across in recent years.
But in September, as I wandered from venue to venue at Raleigh, North Carolina’s Hopscotch festival, in search of a rumored Oneida concert, I stumbled into a dank basement bar in mid-afternoon, as Guardian Alien began its set. I have been an evangelist for the group’s music ever since.
Guardian Alien is a New York-based band led by drummer Greg Fox, formerly of Liturgy (responsible for popularizing the “black metal” sub-genre among non-metalheads), and also a member of the acclaimed skronky art-noise outfit Zs. Fox was initially joined by four other members, on bass, guitar, vocals, and shahi baaja—a type of electric dulcimer, played via keyboard, which sort of sounds like the electric-guitar version of a sitar. (The live line-up has reportedly been pared down to a trio for the current tour).
Its mission statement is best experienced via the 2012 record See the World Given to a One Love Entity (with the aforementioned sleeve), on Chicago’s Thrill Jockey records. The entire album is one 37-minute song that begins with a heavy blast of metal-style drumming, then quickly heads for higher, trippier ground, reaching towards the astral plane, and hitting peak after peak of aggressively euphoric psychedelic swirl. The track eventually disintegrates into a dreamy, whispered middle section of ambient bass tones and field recordings of bird calls before building up again into a jammy second attack.
GA has the technical chops and powerhouse energy to rival the finest hardcore metal groups, but its sound is far more utopian and welcoming. It’s sure to satisfy fans of heavy psych by Japanese groups like Boredoms or Acid Mothers Temple, but it’s also reminiscent of contemporary weirdos like Gang Gang Dance or Dark Meat, with a dash of influence from classic experimental acts like Glenn Branca or Germany’s CAN.
The vocals are as rhythmic as the music, involving semi-coherent diatribes from singer Alex Drewchin, who sounds like Yoko Ono with a vocoder in those few moments when her voice can be distinguished amongst the surrounding sea of blurred, disorienting musical energy.
It’s unclear if the screeds included in the liner notes are lyrics sheets or not, but “All things are one thing” is a discernable mantra, and the band’s Twitter feed is an endless stream of stoner ramblings, including unpunctuated all-cap gems such as “WE WILL WITNESS THE TRANSCENDANT OBJECT THAT AWAITS US AT THE END OF TIME” and “HELP US OUT OF THE DYING GOD FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.”
Guardian Alien recently recorded a new album, Spiritual Emergency (due in January), after which two of the members left the group. The band is currently touring as a trio, and will appear at the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar on Thursday, December 12 supported by Great Dads and Gnatcatcher.
Food, fire, and a Gift Forest
For the fourth consecutive year, Sarah Carr has organized a holiday craft fair at The Bridge PAI, and it’s billed this year as a Gift Forest. The fair includes art prints, jewelry, handmade notebooks, calendars, letter-pressed gift cards, stationery, pillows, plush toys, pottery bowls, belts, tote bags, mugs, screen-printed T-shirts, and used vintage clothing from artists who are all current or former Virginia residents.
The event launched on December 5 with a fire pit and food trucks, a communal party that will be repeated this Friday, December 13. The Gift Forest holds daily shopping hours, and does a robust business that doubles on weekends. “It’s [partly] because we have over 50 vendors, and they tell their friends to come, they tell their co-workers,” Carr said. “We don’t have to do a ton of advertising.”
Carr organized her first craft fair at the Southern in the summer of 2009, and eventually the Bridge invited her to organize a month-long event catering to holiday shoppers. The Bridge takes a cut of all sales in exchange for hosting the event. “It’s a pretty significant income source for the Bridge, [in terms of] non-donor support,” Carr said. Many of the featured artists also receive commissioned work because of the exposure they receive from the event.
Asked to list her favorite artists at this year’s sale, Carr said, “I’m really impressed with Marie Landragin’s shirts. It’s nice to see a woman screenprinter, there aren’t too many of them and they tend to pick better shirts.”
There’s also plenty of work that will look familiar, like the artwork of Allyson Melberg and Jeremy Taylor, and the pottery by Alp Isin. “Alp’s a favorite, everyone loves Alp,” Carr said.
“We have some really talented bookmakers in this town—Lana Lambert, and Lindsey Mears. Thomas Jacobs does this wooden inlaid jewelry that’s really affordably priced. Chelsea [Wolfe] also does really great woodworking, and I have to mention Anna Stockdale, she’s a really talented seamstress, and she’s volunteered every year,” said Carr.
This year’s sale includes CDs and LPs by local rock bands Invisible Hand and Borrowed Beams of Light. “I’m really excited that music is in here this year,” Carr said. “There are a lot of people who come through here, and they don’t know about the local music. I’d like to get more.”
After an exhausting week of non-stop organizing for the event, Carr is happy to finally be open for business. “It always looks so nice in here,” she said. “It’s a bright, cheery place to be, and people meet other people who are working artists in their community. It’s a really nice platform for that to happen.” The Gift Forest will be open every day through December 24 at The Bridge PAI, 209 Monticello Rd.
Are you buying locally made gifts this year? Tell us about it in the comments section below.