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Throwback Thursday: Philosopher Alan Watts Grooves On Vinyl

Throwback Thursday Premiere: The Philosophy Of Alan Watts Finds A New Vinyl Groove On 'Face The Facts'

Jas Walton Large
Jas Walton at work

The philosophy and teachings of Alan Watts defy simple descriptions. Born in England and educated in the United States during the early 20th Century, Watts remains one of the most respected and quotable writers on Zen Buddhism in the English-speaking world. Across a multitude of books, speeches and recorded lectures, he championed experiences and conscious living over the accumulation of things and is still referenced by many in the fields of politics, religion, philosophy and the arts.

The arts were particularly dear to Watts, and now, in commemoration of Watts’s 100th birthday year, a brand new 10″ vinyl EP, Face the Facts, has been released. Utilizing some of Watts’s own home recordings, captured and preserved by his son, New York-based musician and producer Jas Walton has created a new, deep-grooving sonic landscape in which listeners can encounter Watt’s insights into life. The end result comes across as rich and natural, with Walton’s bass and drum lines gently interweaving beneath Watt’s charming candor. It’s the kind of project that sounds as if it somehow arrived readymade, but in truth it took Walton (whose own resume includes the afrobeat group Antibalas, the Luaka Bop William Onyeabor tribute band and a multitude of other gigs as woodwind instrumentalist) years to construct Face the Facts.

“It started in 2012 when I was just experimenting with making music by myself at home, making these vamping chord progression loops that satisfied a certain itch to hear certain harmonies over and over again,” Walton said. “One day on a whim, because I like music with found field recordings, I decided to drop Watts’s voice in and see how it matched up rhythmically.” Through meticulous trial and error, balancing tempos and pitch modulations, Walton gradually blended Watts messages into the music until things ultimately became trance-like. “[T]here’s a repeating rhythm or groove, it allows the listener a kind of meditative experience. The deeper into that repeating figure you go, the more you can give yourself to it. Afrobeat is very heavily couched in that.”

All told, Face the Facts includes four original tracks that each sample Watts’s recorded seminars on the irrational fear of death, the nonsense of Lewis Carroll, and the human ego. However, Okayplayer is very proud to present the world premiere of a very special fifth track. “Bottle of Ink,” pairs Watts’s rumination on creation and human existence–an inquiry into difference and its simultaneous unity–with gently rolling congas and circulating strings. Not quite afrobeat, the track is a worldly moment all its own and one that quickly draws listeners deep into its own expanse. Find more information about Face the Facts on Figure & Ground‘s website, where you can purchase it in a package that includes a reverse-board jacket cover, an eight-page booklet with rare photos and interviews, and a digital download code.

“Alan Watts talks with such a great cadence and natural sing-songy rhythm; there’s freedom in his phrasing from a strictly phonetic point of view. It is mostly just so captivating and feels good to listen to,” Jas said. “I thought it would feel even better to contextualize the words by setting them in the rhythmic grid. Against this background, the figure—if you will—comes to life a little bit more.” It all does indeed come to life on “Bottle of Ink”; listen to it below and celebrate a very mindful Throwback Thursday.



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