The Branches

Long Arm 2011. The Branches feat. Teknical Development (of Obba Supa). On: The Branches. Berlin: Project Mooncircle.

Far away, it's trans-mystic.
Cold air brushes souls, situate as the canvas dance cannabis.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
A few months ago I tried "concursive" listening of Whiskey Blanket's Credible Forces. Soon after that I began another project of concursive listening (on Horrorshow's The Grey Space), but just like my reading of my own early writing "Kuulinn", it is still unfinished. I decided to take up The Branches because lately I've been doing small art projects inspired by the fact that Whiskey Blanket and Long Arm have suspiciously similar album art designs (see my own attempt at imitating their album art below).
The Branches happens to be one of my all-time favourite instrumental hip-hop albums (it is one of the few releases that even come close to Whiskey Blanket). It is also the album that formed the backbone of one of my most illuminating psychedelic experience. The title track, "The Branches", is the only track on the album that features lyrics. These are written and performed by Teknical Development (of Obba Supa) and enticingly psychedelic in themselves. For context, I'll note that the most celebrated hip-hop album of 2011, when The Branches was released, was Jay-Z and Kanye West's collaboration album Watch The Throne that featured such insightful lyrics as "No disrespect, I'm not tryna belittle / But my dick worth money, I put moanie in the middle". Underground hip-hop listeners generally agree that The Branches was the hip-hop album of 2011.
Moving on from my obvious bias... Today I'm going to get into Teknical's amazing lyrics. I'm generally not a fan of poetry, but Teknical blew me away. As exhibited by vdiskdaddy who doesn't really listen to hip-hop but enjoyed WB's From the Dead of Dark immensely, this kind of music not only is exceptional but is prone to create exceptions. I'll also note that you can support Long Arm and buy The Branches here. For current purposes you can listen to the title track "The Branches" here:
Yellow strokes, crimson skies, hypnotic views will keep you still forever.
Conversation with the clouds of guidance.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
It is already apparent that even poetic speech that manipulate with the ordinary structures of utterances include implicit references to bodily behaviour. Even more, due to its poetic nature, it can address feelings, sensations and impressions that are otherwise quite difficult to discuss. The experience of standing still while beholding something beatiful must be (or at least should be) familiar to most if not all people. Hypnotic views are even present in the album art (original paintings by Bioniq and design by Gordon), that mesmerizing tree-man reaching for the heavens.
This forest of wonder it whispers with the voice with no face.
No true nature, no direction to this place of extreme beauties.
River flows to the rhythm of your every step,
reflects the strength as the metal creates the ripples.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
Some reviewer stated that this whole album is "a reflection of a world where human feelings and natural powers are bound together". This indeed seems to be the case and this passage is a vivid illustration: the forest has no face but it has a voice; there are no explicit directions but every step has a significance, the river flows to the rhythm of your every step.
Hugged by the branches; expression: love. The sky cries at random moments.
Winged creature with warm colours they form umbrella structures.
Neon lights that spark in the darkness - transparent souls.
Marvel at the grounded crystals - the floors of healing.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
Teknical's intense delivery makes it difficult to transcribe the lyrics. I've had to make numerous edits to the lyrics given on Indie Rabbit Hole's blog. His fast-paced delivery makes it even difficult to get a grip of the word order. Eventually it seems that the syntax of these utterances are not as important as the picture they paint, a picture of a magical forest full of deep feelings (branches that hug you out of love, a sky that cries at random moments), mystical creatures (fireflies that manifest themselves as "transparent souls") and fantastical milieus (the ground is made of healing crystals). Everything is being, or as one reviewer puts it: "There is no alive-dead distinction."
The grounds of life, pure in the clearest of visions, a domain where life exist as wild with you.
Conversating with the branch climbers, leaf eaters, underground travellers
walk on waters where the curtains flow, the reflection in the mirror it shows nothing.
This is the place of no judgment.
Death even walks the same path in this zone, but it's only smiles.

(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
This passage demonstrates the deeply psychedelic nature of these lyrics. The wilderness coexists with you and as before you were having a conversation with "the clouds of guidance", now you are conversating with the creatures that climb The Branches and dwell beneath the ground. I cannot say what is meant by walking on waters "where the curtains flow" (waterfalls maybe?) but there is no reflection in the mirror and there is no judgment. It even seems that you are not judging yourself, because you yourself have become a "transparent soul". It takes on an eschatological character - by dwelling in this zone you are on the same path as death, but instead of something to be feared it manifests itself as, perhaps, reuniting with ancestors (the smiling faces). There are endless possibilities to interpret these words and perhaps they shouldn't be, as poetry is untranslatable, but at the same time it feels good to explicate my impressions.
No fears but the one to exit this place.
I return to realities of mixed expressions.
Seated but now we're floating, pure energy, feeling new vibrations.
Higher times where no smoke it lingers.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
This passage is backed by one of Long Arm's most beautiful sounds - a piano sequence swinging like a pendulum, accompanied by a woman's voice. Teknical's lyrics continue the description of "the place of no judgment" which is also the place of no fears. I especially like his implication that real life is filled with mixed expressions. In an altered state of mind there are fewer mixed expressions, as the mind is more apt to aliven or vivify even passing sensations as expressions. Langer (1948: 202) describes this as the spontaneous generation of Gestalten. You look at your wallpaper patterns and see movement, human forms and faces; similarly, the protagonist in Teknical's lyrics is seated, but nevertheless feels as if he's floating. I've found that in a psychedelic state it is a good idea to lay down and relinquish all resistance. Or as John Cowper Powys puts it: "it is through withdrawing ourselves rather than asserting ourselves, through retreating rather than advancing, through yielding rather than pursuing, through inaction rather than through action, through becoming quiet rather than through making a stir, that we attain wisdom and spiritual power." (Powys 1933: 11)
We're slowly spinning, rotational movement [is] creating patterns of self.
Different colours and symbols, signals from the canvas of thoughts.
Environment breaths life in every moment.
Pick the seedling, watch it grow from the palms of your hands, your tears dwell.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
The poetry is becoming more and more esoteric. He is conveying an experience that is "slippery", translucent and immeasurable in its nature. It is the experience of everything-being-aliveness that one can attain by opening one's mind up to the chaos of existence. You become one with the planet, and it is no longer the planet that rotates, but you whose life-history now appears intimately tied to the passage of seasons and the passing of days to nights and days again. You experience yourself as an infinitesimal part of everything. The world has not changed but the canvas of your thoughts has; in Peirce's metaphor, you are diving and drowning in your lake of consciousness, or in Rimbaud's metaphor, you are caught in the whirlwind of your sea of consciousness. The latter part of the quote embodies the contention that many psychonauts have - the advice to go to the forest and feel the life around you. The environment does breathe life in every moment. It is an emotional experience - you semble (or "feel empathy") with nature and your tears may indeed dwell. In the end this is the reason why psychedelics aren't "recreational" in the common sense but transformative in the sense that they re-create your "patterns of self".
No desires to leave this place, brought back to the souls earth bound, looking for the exit.
The heart sinks for the purpose of my new steps. What was this now disappears?
Waves from circles of life you soon meet again.
Your arms raise, gesture with a smile of many questions.
Back to this place - boring - before you walk the path of new scenes.
Glass is now filled again, flick the light up, now we back-tracking it. Now begins...
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
What begins after this passage is the break-down (more colloquially: Long Arm dropped the bass). Teknical's lyrics have here remarked upon the othes side of the mind-body dualism. It is not only the canvas of thoughts that has become terrain but one's whole body has come to resonate with the environment. This is the proprioceptive hyper-awareness familiar to psychonauts: one can feel changes in circulation and respiration very vividly ("heart sinks"). The "circles of life" are neatly demonstrated by Long Arm, whose haly-minute instrumental part following these words move in a roundabout manner, as if a disk were rotating back and forth and beating the drums to a musical heart-beat. Raising hands and gesturing "with a smile of many questions" is the most concursive passage yet. It sounds like a description of the tree-man on the album cover, but he does not appear to be smiling, but has more of an awe expression. He is raising his hands and reaching towards "the clouds of guidance" though. Other reviewers have written that the improssion is that of "trying to touch the sun rays and pass heaven sent light through fingers". This is surely more entertaining than the boring real life of mixed expressions.
Burning insides, earth poisons, rest the glass that's hidden.
Two windows smashed with the impact of deep waters.
Drowning so it seems, I calm down and realize I'm still breathing.
From where I left I now swim aquatic.
Swimming to the scale of friendly ocean dwellers.
Sentient life of another, but this occasion felt like nothing carries me.
Try'na find the surface, now just another jewel walking the golden sands of pleasures.
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
The well-timed tension-building and release offered by loud drum beats are perfectly complementary to the lyrics - the melodic turmoil does feel like windows are smashed by waters and you are immersed in deep waters alonside the narrator, flowing along to the musical scale. On my trip accompanied by this album I imagined piano chords connecting two bridges of Emajõgi and myself diving from those strings into the water. On this note it seems appropriate to remark upon the poetic use of parallelisms/articifice or Jakobsons "imputed similarity". Although both iconicity and artifice share "similarity", it is the case that icons are factually similar to their referents but in the case of artifice the similarity is imputed (attributed). Thus we have the complex metaphors of: clouds of guidance, a forest of wonder, the crystal floors of healing and life, a place of no judgment or fear, realities of mixed expressions, the canvas of thoughts, earth-bound souls and transparents souls, circles of life, a smile of many questions, etc... And add to this list "the scale of friendly ocean dwellers". These expressions are difficult to conceptualize and visualize in any concrete forms, but that's exactly what makes them poetic, given that poetry does not talk about things but about itself. At best I can imagine that the scale of friendly ocean dwellers is the "marine acoustics" of fish, dolphin and whale sounds.
Is this another trap - door housed by the content of raw footage?
The branch of this journey now splits into two.
The method of decapitation, top the head to experience new growth.
Rapid as the polarities form [the] ins and outs of a mystical journey.
The forest entrance [is] a spectrum that cures the soul, bleeds emotion.
The force is weak as [compared to] what was experienced before.
Still boils, pure in the blood circulating.
Staring at them both, the smiles are mutual; fire in the sky, it falls.
As it merges as one Maya reveals itself as you.
Forest changes with the sound of trance.
Life hibernates, gone like it's forever missing.
Leaves fall, unmasked itself now remains branches naked
(Long Arm ft. Teknical Development 2011: 10)
Here I have lots of transcription issues. For example, I can't be sure whether the forest entrance cures or curses the soul. What I wrote down as "staring at them both" is "steering at temper" in IRH's version; alse I hear "mutual" where IRH version says "neutral". I don't know what steering at temper or neutral smiles mean, but I do know that mutual smiles arise through mutual glancing ("visual contact"). The last two lines sum up the track and the album (it's the last track before a "Thank You" with cheering and then an instrumental version of this same track). I like these lines because they capture the essence of winter - trees become naked branches and it seems to last forever. Ja lõpetuseks eestikeelne kehv proosatõlge:
Kaugel maal on ülimalt müstiline. Külm õhk silitab hingi. Paiguta end kuniks lõuend tantsib cannabis'e järgi. Kollased pintslitõmbed, veripunane taevas ja hüpnootilised vaated hoiavad sind igavesti liikumatult. Vestlus juhendavate pilvedega. See imeline mets sosistab häälega millel pole nägu. Sellel äärmuslike ilude paigal pole loomust, pole suunajuhiseid kuidas sinna saada. Jõgi voolab su iga sammu rütmis, peegeldab nende tugevust ja tekitab veepinnal virvendusi. Puuoksad embavad sind. Väljendus: armastus. Taevas nutab juhuslikel hetkedel. Oksal istub tiivuline olend soojade värvidega mis moodustavad vihmavarju-struktuure. Neoonvalgus helendab pimeduses - need on läbipaistvad hinged. Imetle jahvatatud kristalle mis katavad tervendavat ja eluandvat maapinnast, vaatle selgeima pilguga ala kus elu eksisteerib metsikuna sinu ümber. Vestled okstel ronijatega, lehesööjatega, maaaluste ränduritega kes kõnnivad vetel mis langevad eesriidena. Sul puudub peegeldus. See on kohtumõistmiseta koht. Isegi surm kõnnib sama rada siinkandis, aga siin on ainult naeratused. Pole muud hirmu kui siit lahkuda.
Naasen segaste väljenduste reaalsusesse. Istun, aga ka hõljun puhta energiana, tunnetan uusi vibratsioone. Pilves ilma suitsuta. Me pöörleme aeglaselt ja liikumine loob meie endi mustreid, erinevaid värve ja sümboleid, signaale mõttelõuendilt. Keskkond hingab igal hetkel elu. Korjad üles seemne, vaatad kuidas see kasvab su peopesast ja su silmadesse koguneb pisaraid. Pole mingit tahtmist siit lahkuda, aga sind tuuakse väljapääsu otsides tagasi maapinda aheldatud hingede sekka. Süda vajub saapasäärde mu uute sammude eesmärgi pärast. Mis see oli mis nüüd kadus? Lained eluringidelt, te kohtute peagi taas. Sa tõstad oma käed, küündid taeva poole naeratusega milles on palju küsimusi. Tagasi siin on igav, varem kõndisid sa uute maastike rajal. Klaas on jälle täis, lülitad tule põlema, nüüd me keerame tagasi ja see algab...
Maised mürgid põletavad kõhtu. Peidad klaasi ära. Sügavate vete kokkupõrkest puruneb kaks akent. Jääb uppumise mulje, aga ma rahunen maha ja taipan, et ma hingan ikka veel. Nüüd ujun ma vees, sõbralike ookanielukate skaalal, teise teadlikul elul, aga see tundub nagu midagi ei kannaks mind. Üritan ujuda pinnale, kuid olen nüüd veel üks juveel naudingute kuldsel rannal. Kas see on järjekordne keldrialune mis sisaldab tooreid tajumusi? Selle rännaku oks murdub nüüd kaheks. Kärbitud ladvaga kogeb puu nüüd uut, kiirendatud, kasvu mille polaarsused moodustavad selle müstilise rännaku sisendid ja väljendid. Metsa sissepääs on spektrum mis ravib hinge, veristab emotsioone. Jõud on nüüd nõrk võrredes varem kogetuga. Ikka veel keeb ja ringleb veres puhtal kujul. Vaatame üksteisele otsa ja naeratame. Taevast hakkab tuld sadama. Oksad saavad uuesti kokku ja Maia paljastab iseennast sinuna. Mets muutub koos selle helidega. Elu talvitub, läheb ära nagu see jääb alatiseks kaduma. Lehed kukuvad ja puu jääb nüüd maskita, paljasteks oksteks.


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