45 min. CD
1. Pulse Quickens [mp3]
2. Entering the Mist
3. Organic Sympathy
4. Float Upstream
5. Melting Trees
6. Between Space [mp3]
Improvisations for Sitar and Acoustic Guitar
Processed and Effected with Acid Pro
Erik Amlee - instruments, set, and setting
Recorded at Chateau Weirdeaux, in Greenfield, Massachussetts, May 6 - 28, 2006
A Joint Production by Mandragora and Fire Museum Records
The debut solo CD by Erik Amlee continues in his recent series of sitar-heavy recordings, with the new discovery of a unique 5-string acoustic guitar style added to the mix. Recorded in and around his home in Western Massachussetts, he enhances intimate
neo-raga improvisations with psychedelic and experimental production and effects. The album unfolds in a hypnogogic reverie, delicate spontaneous melodies intertwine, with a subversive loop or two thrown in to ensure that listeners don’t merely drift away completely into a blissful sonic netherworld. Ethno-drone hymns to the Forest Folk and Plant People.
A figure in the underground experimental psychedelic music scene since the late Eighties, Erik Amlee has performed in a variety of groups and settings exploring the outer fringes of sonic possibilities. He founded the Mandragora Records label in 2001 as an outlet for his own recordings amassed over 10+ years and as a publisher of extreme psychedelic music and sonic exotica. His multimedia troupe Paradise Camp 23 is recognized by underground heads as a purveyor of genre-defying cubist acid junk and occult trance improv par excellence.
Erik has been playing the sitar since 2000, but it wasn't until Spring 2003 that he found the voice and emerged from his private closed-door sessions. Entirely self-taught, Amlee brings a unique style and sensibility to the instrument, mixing sitar technique with sonic experimentation derived from years exploring acid rock guitar and psychedelic noise. The release of his two solo sitar CD-R’s last year, which collected live recordings from the past two years, brought him to the attention of a whole new group of listeners.
The Wire 274 December 2006
"After a series of releases of his sitar playing on CD-R, for his debut Cd Erik Amlee adds an acoustic guitar to the throbbing drone with amazing results. The instruments twist around each other like a pair of mating cobras, letting loose passionate and dreamy drones of transcendental turbulence that softly rise and fall in the loop stream that Amlee adds to enhance the mood. Sounding like an alliance between Ravi Shankar and John Martyn, Afternoon Dream
is an exquisite tangle of re-energised Eastern and Western roots music." - Edwin Pouncey
Foxy Digitalis Online 12/27/06
"Massachusetts native and Mandragora label head Erik Amlee creates music fit for all seasons: it’s the perfect accompaniment for lackadaisical summertime reveries, and a talisman for warding off the bitter grip of winter’s chill. “Afternoon Dream” couldn’t be a better title for this first legitimate release of Amlee’s solo guitar/sitar improvisations. With acoustic guitar work that beguiles the listener with its austere beauty, Amlee is reverential yet exploratory. His sitar melodies shrink the globe to the size of a small marble, cleverly dancing across the vastness of the heavens.
“Melting Trees,” with its fuzzed out tones invites somewhat of a sense of urgency. But it’s the urge to rejoice with which we are filled. That’s what “Afternoon Dream” is: a terrestrial hymn. Creation in the face of destruction. Amlee weaves shards of sound into a blissful concoction for our ears to devour. This is readily apparent on closing track “Between Space,” with its seemingly endless echo. Amlee is calling for us to join him on an everlasting sonic journey. I recommend that you go along for the ride." 9/10 -- Bryon Hayes
The Run-Off Groove #136
"For spiritual music of a more experimental nature, check out Afternoon Dream (Mandragora/Fire Museum) by Erik Amlee, who describes his music as "psychedelic new weird america raga".
The front cover features a guitar and sitar leaning on the side of a home or old shack, with a hat suitable for wearing in the country. These are the elements Amlee brings to his music, where one song will be played in the Hindustani tradition, while others are of the folk and country traditions. He plays his instruments very well, creating beautiful pieces of work. With titles such as "Organic Sympathy", "Melting Trees", and "Pulse Quickens", you are allowed to take your mind as far as you want, if you want. Other times, he takes the psychedelic side to all new levels by electrifying everything, adding trippy effects (including distortion) and it becomes an acid trip mantra. It is indeed "weird", but within that weirdness is a conscious effort to be creative for the sake of wanting to make music. Amlee plays the acoustic guitar and shows a lot of Indian music influences, where you'll hear drones and passages that repeat like a thought out raga. In a Western sense, it's a bit like jazz where you will hear the main theme before he explores the mood of the piece, before returning to the theme. There are some other things going on that have to be heard to be believed, and if there is such a thing as a "sonic high", this album produces it with every track." - da bookman
"You can probably forgive me an MV comparison here, after all Mr. Amlee does live in Northampton, Massachusets, which isn't too far from Maximum Arousal Farm, and both a straw hat and a strange stringed instrument figure into his cover photograph.....ah, but the differences are just as big. Where MV and co. are wont to take the music into spiky and jarring territory, Amlee keeps it a little more drony, a little more traditionally beautiful and free-floating. Some might even say 'new-agey', but this Afternoon Dream sounds too nice for it not to be a compliment, with longish tracks that ripple and hover with sublime sitar and acoustic guitar sounds, delicately FX'd into subtle blankets. Now, Amlee is no virtuoso Shankar acolyte on the sitar -- he's using it more as a resonator, a mere vehicle for the deep strange sounds that mostly come from beneath the frets. I dug Amlee's solo sitar-in-a-room record Sitar Vol. 2, that was a nice one too, but Afternoon Dream really takes it to another level with the addition of the acoustic guitar and those sweet FX." - Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman
Psyche Van Het Folk
"Erik Amlee has developed in an autodidactic way, a different and explorative vision on the sitar, in combination with a unique 5-string guitar and some effects (like reverb and distortion). The idea still is pretty new, so you can hear in the album how new discoveries are taking shape. On the first track the fundament is the sitar improvisation, while using some delays and effects. On the second track he explores and develops similarities with a different instrument, the 5-string guitar, while on the next tracks there are more interactions, also with some additional effects. The album shows all these variations as if it was a deliberate compositional concept in different parts and sections.
I'll go a bit into detail now. On “Pulse Quickens” the sitar is played slowly, and with lots of delay that has a life on its own, with the plucked notes sounding like pins on which like waxed thread sounds, are hanging and streaming. On the second track, the 5-string guitar takes the lead, providing a very similar mood structure but with a logical different colour and rounded shapes. The piece is performed like a very slow late night raga, and has some background sounds to it. In the following track sitar and guitar are combined beautifully. The next track takes us one step further, adding distorted fuzz bass sound to the sitar improvisation. The last track with guitar has an extra distorted echo effect layer, bringing us in some way back to the starting piece, peacefully, but in an experimental mode. Very enjoyable." - Gerald Van Waes (4/5 stars)
"Earlier this year, we reviewed two volumes of dreamy psychedelic sitar improvisations from multi instrumentalist Erik Amlee. Two discs, both absolutely gorgeous, so gorgeous in fact that we could barely keep them in stock. So we were super excited to get our hands on this, the newest release from Amlee, an actual cd, not a cd-r, another set of improvisations, this time performed on both sitar and acoustic guitar, and again so lovely and tranquil, blissy and dreamy.
Deep swells of buzzing strings drift lazily, the acoustic guitar strumming along in the background, adding yet another layer of steel string buzz. Some of the tracks are totally loose and abstract, druggy expanses of slippery psychedelic sound, murky and fuzzy, like the jammiest spaciest parts of Spacemen 3 and Hawkwind stripped down into weird stoner acoustic ragas, all drone and shimmer, a buzzing swirl of warm drug den ambience and sunny afternoon sparkle, a seemingly impossible mix that sounds pretty much perfect together. Some of the other tracks are much more structured and guitar based, gorgeous little chunks of neo-Appalachia, but with all sorts of extra buzz, all nestled within a billowy fog of spacey FX. And still others are a glorious mix of the two, a dreamy collision of Eastern Raga and Western twang, a slithering squirming drone that buzzes and builds into thick squalls of resonating strings and swirling ambient hiss, all wrapped in a blown out, super distorted, reverb heavy sound thanks to some post-recording production. So great. The perfect balance of freaked out psychedelic raga bliss and shimmery lilting buzz and twang. SO RECOMMENDED!!"
Outer Space Gamelan
"A couple years back Erik put out two solo sitar CD-Rs which received some pretty heavy praise from the likes of Foxy Digitalis and Aquarius Records and all those good folk. So "Afternoon Dream" appears to be the culmination of those efforts, the first true blue debut sitar recording. And I must say, it's quite nice. Most interesting about Amlee is that he's entirely self-taught. So suffice to say he doesn't bend any hour-long raga classics, but what he does throw down winds up working well all the same (plus they're all improvisations, so you gotta sling some credit there). The first track "Pulse Quickens" is a wonderfully-delayed 10-minute soupy sitar workout, with Amlee playing patiently and letting the notes drift off into orbit before he returns his fingers to the strings. "Entering the Mist" sounds like its title as Amlee juggles (that is, overdubs) guitar and sitar into a very peaceful and perky ditty. The same technique is repeated for "Organic Sympathy", a track that benefits from a seemingly rough (or at least unpolished) production job, microphone in the middle of the room style. "Float Upstream" is another lone sitar number and sounds probably as Eastern as Amlee is ever going to get. He says he's got no professional sitar training but I'm hesitant to believe it after hearing this one. The penultimate "Melting Trees" is almost surprisingly harsh, as Amlee plays rough with his heavily-effected sitar, forming thick and caustic webs of brazen muddled trance, surely the psychedelic experience he's been searching for all this time. "Between Space" is the last track, and curiously enough it's the exact same length as the first track - 10:54. For the most part Amlee plays it quiet, though on the whole it sounds dirtier than the first one. There's quite a bit more activity on the strings but never so as to be disruptive - the perfect cut (and album) for getting down to some serious afternoon dreaming indeed. If you're fan of Six Organs or Emerald Cloud Cobra or Magickal Power Mako or John Fahey or Sandy Bull or Steffen Basho-Junghans or Ben Reynolds...well you've got nothing to lose with this one."