Earlier this year, Carl Stone released Baroo which was an incredibly refreshing head first dive into his world of sonic confetti. A surprisingly concise mangled explosion of Latin funk, pop and heaving ambience all shredded through Stones hugely exhilarating software and brain. Himalaya, released only 7 months later feels, like Baroo’s bigger cousin and within only a few listens, I was convinced that it’s possibly the craziest, grooviest and most deeply affecting recordings he’s made yet. Having now immersed myself in it for weeks, I’m even surer.
Every piece of music Stone has made has always been created within its own conceptual realm. The underlying sample and its inherent qualities that then evolve in a huge variety of thoughtful or brutal unpicking. Each track could, in effect, tumble around forever, re-inventing and reforming itself. The tunnel vision inherent in his music means the juxtaposition of one track to the next, offers another far subtler part of the magic on display over Himalaya’s 70-minute duration. Framed in part by the red herring of the title (Himalaya will undoubtedly be a restaurant Stone’s enjoyed a meal at) it’s easy to see these 6 new tracks as previously unmapped mountain peaks.
The brief Han Yan sets its stall up in the first 10 seconds. Another maniac splintered afrobeat kaleidoscope that dances on a single pixel. A playful opener into the crazy precision at the heart of Stone’s work. Right away it’s clear that this track highlights that creative joy of fast forwarding through sound but the skimming itself reveals a new melodic gravity. A leaping between clipped islands of sound, linked via a sonic thread.
A showy stadium rock drum roll announces Bia Bia, before strange mercury trumpet splatters are drizzled over everything, activating a sea of triggers and effects. Slowly the music reveals a gestation, a chewed screwed late sixties shadow firing out of the speaker in rearranged atoms and keyboard waves before ripping into infinite parts.
The delirious spinning and flashing of Jame Jam squeaks and crackles before catching into a huge steam train Pinky and Perky zoetrope. A cartoon soundtrack to the strangest dream that turns into a wild west reflection. This stuff reeks of meticulously organised chaos but at the same time, spine tingling joy.
Kikanbou rolls in with an almost preposterous funky groove. Its cheesy mannerisms quickly chopped into a rolling clattering percussive spine. A thick soup of bleeping shapeshifting weird splashes start dripping off everything. As the organ emerges slowly 4 minutes in and the whole thing settles into the messiest broth Stone’s cooked up yet. Around 6 and a half minutes in, the beats scatter horizontally and vertically. It’s another hall of mirrors but this time, its every surface is in a packed lysergic night club. Strings stretched, fragments jackhammer, and thick synthetic arcs swarm as a corroded guitar line reforms. Stone is on fire here, throughout the 17-minute lifespan, it’s difficult not to regard this as anything other than one of his absolute masterpieces.
But incredibly, the short gap of silence and the pure heady drone of Fujiken (Final Section) has shifted tectonically – instantly veered into another realm again. A huge ethereal ascent, high altitude third eye popping, thick waves of shimmering monochromatic beauty. The sound turns more string like and whilst completely different to its predecessor, it seems this album is impossibly an ever enlarging high. The unadorned Vietnamese vocal enters at the 6-minute mark and a second voice slowly wraps around the first – a psychedelic joy and another instant masterpiece. One can only image the entire piece, as this 21-minute side of vinyl is a pure sonic diamond.
The album closes with the pulsing moody drift of the title track Himalaya, a collaboration with vocalist Akaihirume. Stone creates a thoughtful backdrop to her glacial delivery, her voice miraging like an electronic component.
Ultimately, Himalaya, like Baroo plots a slowly evolving approach to Stones working practise. That same wide-eyed discovery of samples and sonic images to use as the basis for these metamorphoses. The thoughtful Linden Tree sample that informed one of his early monoliths – Shing Kee has shifted through Barbie Girl by Aqua in his Flint’s, towards a saturated neon lit Tokyo that Stone calls home. Advertising, sound design in addition to an ever-increasing library of sound that we all have access to has positivity impacted and digested into his musical cannon.
Stone’s working approach is a filter that sees potential in anything it’s pointed at, like any view has the potential to be a photograph. The samples he uses as scaffolding and ingredients continue to be a detailed search. Every bottled sound has potential and what is ultimately so satisfying with Himalaya, is that we’re continually offered new settings, shedding light on variations that make sense in this rich discography whilst fearlessly marching onwards.
The insanely frenetic first 4 tracks, and the vast calm of the last 2, map out his ever-widening palette with amazing results. Ultimately Himalaya is both a blistering primer to his work and an incredibly rich feast to those of us already under his vast spell.
Himalaya is released on the 20th of September on Unseen Worlds, pre-order it here
Read our reviews of Stones Baroo and Electronic Music from the Eighties and Nineties and our interview here and here.