The world of Lasher Keen is both dark and light, living and dead, mythically inspired and sensuously physical. Comprised by multi-instrumentalists Dylan Sheets and Bluebird Gaia with a rotating cast of musical collaborators, Lasher Keen combine music & theater that’s inspired by ritual-induced trance states, yet grounded in folk traditions. Drawing on a wide swath of influences stretching from Neolithic British psychedelia to the distant underworld of matriarchal times, they are an ensemble that transmutes the dust of history into the gold of creation.
Formed in 2006, Sheets and Gaia have relentlessly honed their creative vision, infusing their far-flung influences with an undeniably Pagan patina. While echoes of British folk giants like the Incredible String Band and Steeleye Span are apparent, they also draw from deeper sources such as early Celtic & Scandinavian mythology. The resulting sound is both coherent and expansive, ancient yet contemporary.
The release of their latest album, Berserker on the Pesanta Urfolk label shows them broadening their scope further to incorporate disparate elements ranging from Motown soul to sea shanties and delicate harp music. Aided by alt-folk luminaries like Dawn McCarthy, Cornelius Boots and Nils Frykdahl of Faun Fables, they avoid the usual musical clichés with a battery of strange instruments including the bouzouki, jaw harp, hunting horns, singing saw, glockenspiel, penny whistle, bodhran, autoharp, accordion, zils, baritone sax and shakuhachi flute along with traditional gut string harp, acoustic guitars, cello, violin, bass and hand-drums.
Their deeply cathartic live performances tread the fine line between music concert and elaborate theatrical ritual. Dressed in authentic mantles, cloaks and even brain tanned leathers, they stand awash in historical blue woad dyes & create a sacred space onstage where the spirits of the underworld are invoked and honored. Deftly changing instruments mid-song, they create an atmosphere of musical storytelling that switches from danger to passion, melding the stately naturism of Pentangle with the grinding miasma of the Velvet Underground. The roots of their live shows can be traced from The Grand Guignol theater of 19th century Paris to the subtle “music as ritual” performances of those like Sequentia & Diamanda Galas. When Lasher Keen take the stage, audiences are transported to a netherworld of sound, rhythm and living myth.
Following in the footsteps of the wandering bards from early European Celtic societies, Lasher Keen have embarked on numerous tours. The duo have traversed the West Coast from the ancient rain forests of the Pacific Northwest to the concrete wastelands of Southern California. Their most ambitious tour took them across Europe, where they were welcomed by crowds in France, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany and Austria, who found the language barrier no impediment.
Lasher Keen call the rural mining community of Nevada City, California home. It is a land of deep history, a place suffused with natural magic long before the gold miners arrived, and a place where Sheets and Gaia are free to howl at the moon, burn ritual bonfires and hone their craft free from the intrusions of modern “progress”.
The world of Lasher Keen is one of mystery and deep knowledge, ritual and spontaneity. While some ensembles cling to nature as an aesthetic pose, Sheets and Gaia create from a deeply held reverence for the natural world, a world where life and death coexist in the decaying leaves on the forest floor and the new green blossoms of spring. ~Chris Streng
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