Some bands get their names from beat poetry or art movements, others from novels, or words mispronounced or misheard, but Medicine Voice, fittingly, got its moniker from a vision quest. The band is the result of metamorphosis, the evolutionary transition of Sar Friedman’s solo project Heartswin, which the Sydney musician had gone by for more than a decade.
Medicine Voice’s shamanic, transcendial debut LP, six-track I And Thou, is due out later this month, and although it began life as a concept record, fate clearly had other plans, becoming Friedman’s full-on experimental journey of personal transformation.
Philosophy on existentialism and rich instrumental tapestries lay the foundations for Medicine Voice – the new project from Sydney’s Sar Friedman.
“I realised that the record was not complete until I integrated the new name – which essentially is the boon of my journey,” she explains, “It definitely stretched me way outside of my comfort zone, which I suppose is all part of the point! And what came with the name change was very confronting. It held a huge sense of responsibility for me, that this experience was part of a much bigger picture than just the music: it was definitely a healing for me. I guess all that is quite personal and harder to articulate. The mythology of it all is still unfolding”
To aid with her transfiguration, she brought in Oren Ambarchi, James Rushford and Joe Talia to provide a flurry of rich, electrified instrumentals. “I met Oren in the UK about nine years ago,” Friedman says, “I remember telling him way back then that I really wanted to make a ‘doom’ record. I think that was a bit of a geeky, embarrassing moment for me…but as fate would have it – quite a few years later, it did eventuate and Oren was pivotal in helping me realise this long-time musical vision! He introduced me to Joe Talia…and it basically flowed from there.”
Debut single, Aham / Realm of the Wild Woman, which features on the LP, encapsulates soaring vocals that are mesmerising and emotive. These are stitched together with minimal song structures that gently slumber, intimate and hypnotic, from bare hand-percussion into electrified walls of sound, droning acoustics and eastern-tinged improvisations, twisting in explorative, weaving forms that mirror the mystical depths of her lyrics.
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And these, like we’re to expect from the entire scope of I And Thou, come peppered with abstruse meanings, narrating Friedman own mystical journey, inspired by her own spiritual pursuits, and heavily influenced by concepts drawn from Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. Her interest in the hero’s journey began back when she was still Heartswin, working on a piece called Tammuz and, she says, “delving more into the different mystical traditions and the archetypal similarities that are interwoven between them all. I loved that the similarities can act as a cyclic blueprint within each of our own lives as well,” she adds, “it’s quite powerful.”
Martin Buber’s philosophies on existentialism were another source of her inspiration and considering all the secret pockets Friedman’s taken care to strew through the album, it makes sense that one of her favourite lines of his is: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.” And so layers run deeper the further you look, their conceptual and mythological threads for the taking provided you’ve got one eye open. Even the song’s name tells its own story: the first half comes from the Sanskrit Aham Brahmasmi, meaning ‘I Am That’, the second refers to ‘the place where one is invited to overcome the fear of whatever is coming up that is stopping you from being who you really wanna be’.
“It’s not just music for listening or performance,” Friedman says, “I think it can be that of course, but it’s also an offering, a meditation, an invitation… it’s a call to action for others to keep their creative fires burning, to find their medicine and share it with the world.”
I And Thou by Medicine Voice is out on 27 May 2016.