France’s High Wolf possesses a natural-born ability to zero in on the tones most conducive to inducing transcendental states. Prolific without wearing out his welcome, this guitarist and manipulator of effects boxes looses fervid streams of fever-dreamy drones that suffuse any room they enter with mystery. High Wolf’s tracks carry the uncanny sense of sounding as if they’ve been sluicing since the beginning of time, and that he had the graciousness to siphon them for teasingly brief absorption before they shimmer off to the vanishing point. This elite droneur is one of the few musicians who could title a release A Guide To Healing without it coming off as an ironic gesture or a laughable boast. (Cop that 7” and try not to get a spring in your chakras.)
Atlas Nation—recorded in 2010 after a long trip to India and Nepal—deepens High Wolf’s penetration into the mystic. He evokes an uneasy peace with a new breed of tribal psychedelia shorn of all hokey signifiers. “Fuji Descent” starts the album with what could be a languid, paradisiacal soundtrack to a scrapped Alejandro Jodorowsky film. “The Dawn of Man” is a stark, stoned processional burrowing into malarial climes where guitars squawk in ominous tongues and congas cave in chests and clear brush with a vengeance. “Raagni” magnifies and psychedelicizes Rapoon’s mantric, ritualistic hand-drum patter and tropical-forest drones while hinting at Don Cherry’s jazz-raga peregrinations. High Wolf claims that “Haiti” was “recorded in a couple of hours [on] the day of the big earthquake in Haiti, so it's the darkest/saddest HW track ever.” It’s a fittingly miasmic, climactic threnody.
Think of Atlas Nation as a surreal aural travelogue that takes a giant step beyond Jon Hassell’s Fourth World music—a humid milieu teeming with alien tonalities and oracular currents. It’s as welcome as a new, improved entheogen on the streets.