CARLOS NINO AND FRIENDS - EXTRA PRESENCE Vinyl 2xLP

CARLOS NINO AND FRIENDS - EXTRA PRESENCE Vinyl 2xLP

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When Carlos Niño is performing with his friends, he is embedded in the present. And from there, it seems like he can see anything: every possible place a song might go, how a sound might evolve, whether or not it will make his listeners and collaborators feel seen and appreciated. He is a maestro of arranging time and space into supportive containers, somehow completely in sync with the moment and beyond all chronology. And over the past couple of years, when the concepts of space and time have dilated and gone sideways for so many of us, Carlos’ attempts to crystallize the moments he and his friends produce and present us with songs ripe with possibility, chance, and the care that radiates naturally among musicians who love and trust one another has felt like an act of profound kindness.

As its title suggests, EXTRA PRESENCE gives us another hour of these explorations. The new tracks were all recorded around the time Carlos was working on Actual Presence and its followup, More Energy Fields, Current, and they show that the sense of possibility that first suggested itself in these songs wasn’t a mirage. Rather than simply remixing old tunes, Carlos opens new doors that reveal new rooms. “You will get through this with Koto” isn’t just augmented by a koto; it’s wound up in a new tension that was barely suggested in the original track. “Luis’ Special Shells,” an Actual Presence highlight, dips us into an subaquatic world painted in inky blues and forest greens, the shells themselves the only clear element that remains from the original.

Most strikingly, it’s capped by the 23-minute ambient piece “Recurrent Reiki Dreams,” a dramatic extension of the album’s “Mushroom eclipse.” The track’s length, and the lightly undulating silkiness of its textures, makes it feel as though the entire album has been sliding into this primordial space, as if the whole of EXTRA PRESENCE is something like a symphony. Or maybe like all of those views Carlos and his friends have offered have all been different ways of saying this, variations on a way of articulating a feeling that exists here in its purest form. It’s like staring into the object with which this music has been abiding. What I didn’t hear in 2020 but hear now, as the world has changed and continues to, is that the sound of EXTRA PRESENCE is the sound of being ready to face yourself. Or, more precisely, it’s the sound of what happens when everyone pauses what they’re doing and rallies to support a wounded friend. Yes, these songs are technically dazzling, constantly surprising, and expertly constructed. But at its core, EXTRA PRESENCE is about sitting down, being with, trying to draw from a sensation or a mass that’s much bigger than we can understand. Yes, this is mystical language, but this is mystical music. “It is a way of describing the awareness of Eternal Now,” Carlos says.” “It is a way of expressing the consciousness of Being.”