Straight away, my bull shit detector twinged when I heard about this album by shadowy unknown cult leader Jeremiah Sand and a newly discovered album Lift it Down. The reason was that I’d already been seduced by the visually overloaded myth via Panos Cosmatos‘s film Mandy. Having enjoyed the film, we had bought and loved the song Amulet of the Weeping Maze by Sand, that featured prominently at the films’ wasp stung centre.
Jeremiah Sand is a character in the film, a mid 70’s deranged Jesus figure, leading his twisted flock, blowing minds with his theories, substances and perhaps more importantly – his music. This album packages up a collection of his woozy floating psychedelic pop oddness giving the unhinged self-professed deity a fuller sense of reality. Sand isn’t real but the concept is believable enough to be as real as some of the wild mystic eyed corners of psych fables are.
Clearly the idea of cults has always been problematic, but as a phenomenon, they continue to fascinate with idiosyncratic lifestyles and beliefs, and sadly, on occasion, with well-known brutal and chilling events. Lumped together, as they often tend to be, cults embody a branch of individualism growing out of the free-thinking radicalism of 60’s counterculture, comprised of lots of zoning out, weirdness, drugs, sex, gods, light and shade.
So, Jeremiah Sand, with a grain of truth or not, presents itself as a completely plausible ‘also ran’ in this role-call of freaks. Whilst the album comes with an expanded backstory by the recently departed Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the proof of the illusion lies in the music itself.
What opens out is a fun and spacey inner dialogue. The whole album reeks of that confidence of all great whacked out music. The lyrics aren’t muddled, they are clear and proudly flying the freak flag. Instruments and effects sound like how the sleeve describes them – as beams of crystallised light. Does the singer believe what he’s singing? Is this actually real? Where does the joke end and it just becomes superbly trippy music?
Lift it Down is immediately the inky black trailer surging with filmic spaciousness. Even the lyrics ‘dare to let go, to release your soul, into my tender care…’ head straight for some star gate. Message from the Mountain has a lysergic wobble over a strummed groove, echoing vocals and rainbow encrusted everything.
Things take a somehow ominous turn in the odd opening moments of Love Is, but blossoms into a bizarre angsty ballad complete with kosmic orchestral spirals. We jig through the flowers in Now You Are Mine like we are in some neon fringed paradise. A choir of echoes, plots spirals in the slow building groove of There Once Was a Man.
Golden Desert has a shimmering heat haze rising through everything. Sand stands at his ranting confessional peak before the whole thing overlaps into a layered distorted slither. Golden Fervor is, however, where things finally go properly nuts. Caveman drums and backward guitars animate around silver glam rock and it’s totally wonderful.
The album up to this point seems to have been moving from heady calm into heady craziness but the BDSM disco funk of the closer Taste the Whip isn’t what we expected. But it has that rationale that you might expect from this character, as Sands’ masterpiece album ends with the perfectly marketable disco hit that the kids would love in a parallel 1976. Hitting two chunks of the demographic to spread the word even further…
Whatever is actually going on here depends on the listener. Perhaps Lift it Down is a great example of the way people used to make music but the parody within the sandwich might not suit everyone. The fact Jeremiah Sand is a character from a film isn’t that different from Ziggy Stardust or David Brent in some ways. These characters that all exist in our heads, but with Sand, he’s broken the fourth wall in a weird direction.
Whilst it’s not clear who features, who we are even listening to, or when the music collected here was made, the assumption is at least part of the process happened under the various clouds of 2020. Maybe it’s a really good time to be wrapping our brains around such nonsense? This year has been one that’s required all of us to continually dip into what the idiots like Johnson and Trump are saying, the deniers, the racists, the homophobes, the ‘them’ diametrically opposed to ‘us’…
As a counterpoint to all this, we’ve all needed an escape as well, to stretch out, away from all this in the good stuff. Whilst Lift it Down is not necessarily what we thought we needed, time flirting with the twisted weirdness of an imaginary and very insistent cult leader has been one of this year’s more interesting distractions.
Brain fudge of the highest quality…
Lift it Down is out now on Sacred Bones