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In 1987, “futurist folk” guitarist Sue Ann Harkey and avant-rock violinist-vocalist Sharon Gannon recorded It Is This It Is Not This with their band Audio Letter, featuring jazz artists Don Cherry (on pocket trumpet, flute, doussn’gouni, and berimbau) and Denis Charles (drums and percussion) as well as multi-instrumentalist David Life. Gannon and Life, of course, went on to great fame in the yoga world as founders and directors of New York’s Jivamukti Yoga Centers. Now, more than 15 years after its initial release, this underground classic reappears in a glittery new high-tech guise that updates the original amalgamation of Indian and jazz instrumentation, Sanskrit lyrics, and sacred imagery through the electronic wizardry and beat-heavy consciousness of techno, jungle, hip-hop, electronica, and drum ‘n’ bass. Tapping the talents of acquaintances made through remix maestro Bill Laswell and Jivamukti, the Audio Letter Remix project finds Laswell, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Reverend Run (of Run-DMC), Mike D. (of the Beastie Boys), and others participating in the drastic reconfiguration and tweaking of six original Audio Letter tracks. (Only the closing track, “Fading Green,” appears as it did on the 1987 recording.) In the vocal department, from Gannon’s Sanskrit scatting and metaphysical poetry to a 1999 talk on the global ramifications of a healthy, socially responsible diet, Neti-Neti wears its world-as-Gaia sentiments explicitly. But it’s in the musicluminous and ethereal here (“Smoke and Mirrors”), polyrhythmically pounding there (“Sound Is God”)that global unity is achieved.
Derk Richardson is a YJ contributing editor who also writes about popular culture for SFGate (www.sfgate.com) and Acoustic Guitar magazine.