Spiritczualic Enhancement Center | Interview
Spiritczualic Enhancement Center is a nexus of musicians, travelers and artists who explore alchemical realms of meditation and sonic ritualism. The collective are releasing a new album on Kryptox called ‘Carpet Album’. A track off this album will be released on their ‘Kraut Jazz Futurism Vol 2’ compilation coming out Friday March 19th.
“Underground musical ritualism”
What’s the main concept behind Spiritczualic Enhancement Center?
There was once an Enhancement Center – a squatted musical temple in which the Spiritczualic philosophy encountered its first disciples. Being an approach to collective listening, it is foremost an esoteric essence, one that envelops those congregating in DIY explorations of sonic mysticism.
What does the name “Spiritczualic Enhancement Center” refer to in the context of the band name?
It so happened that on a particular 24th of December – aka Christmas – the first notes emerged from the Enhancement Center. An abandoned Ottoman building beneath the Old City of Jerusalem and formerly the Center for Talmudic Publications, it was serendipitously repurposed when Nicolas Sheikholeslami (Drums) came for a residency set up by Omri Shmulewitz (Keys) – an event astonishingly anticipated by the former’s father with his cryptic instruction to “find the Talmud”. As a secret space in which to gather and manifest the Spiritczualic teachings – the Enhancement Center transformed into practice our quasi-theories of underground musical ritualism.
Spiritczualic is a word-melange of “spiritual” and the invented “ritualic”. The “cz” is borrowed from Polish (tʂ / hard “tch”). When looking at the poster announcing the only performance during those formative days in “Dangerousalem”, as we came to call it, the venue’s boss spotted “a Gurdjieffian movement”. The feeling was of a pseudo-cult, reflecting the city’s ridiculously powerful and absurd histories.
While fantasizing of mystery schools and hermits, we only managed to stay covert for a few weeks before the jig was up. We sensed this as our exile and a newfound mission. Since we had lost that generative space, the decision was to roam the earth — carrying the lost temple within us.
So we temporarily resurrect the Enhancement Center – and our spectral-jazz communion – wherever we may be. Last year we converted a 2500m2 warehouse in Brussels into a facility for Spiritczualic propagation, where we recorded for nearly a month.
“The project brings together friends that had never made music together.”
Who are members of the project and how did you get together to form this band?
Some of us indeed met in the original Enhancement Center and have been collaborating ever since. Others initially joined as a “blind date” – whom we met literally moments before a concert – only to then become recurring participants. The project brings together friends that had never made music together. It also creates fellowships, having already embraced around 50 contributors in the transiently spawned Spiritczualic centers.
How would you describe your sound?
Deprogramming music. Frequency meditations. Atavistic futurism. Spectral jazz.
We’re disciples of spiritual jams and kosmische, inspired by minimalist electronics and heady-psychedelic music. There is definitely a ritualistic element. It may be disturbing as it morphs and merges, from ultra-harmonic cacophony to “chaotic-relief”. This kind of music is more a process than a result.
Source Of Powerdropping – from ‘The Uncanny Times‘, a Covid-19 crisis-support compilation by Hive Mind Records, Brighton, UK. Video by Omri Shmulewitz. Recorded at Klunkerkranich, Berlin
How do you usually approach music making?
You know, David Lynch speaks about “catching the big fish”. But we don’t think of it like that. Instead of going fishing, we go school like fish. It’s swimming together – ever subtly giving and taking.
We are often eight or more people expressing themselves simultaneously. When it isn’t chaos, we manage to merge and get our best moments. Sometimes we’ll find it challenging to determine our own contribution. “Wait, who was playing that?” is a very good question for us.
The space in which we play is always present, so we first sonically measure it out, intuitively finding our positions in the spectrum. Think of bats.
“We are outer-national”
Although sessions are never scripted, a vocabulary has been building up on its own. But only in the uninstructed sense of a shared experience – not by repeating a repertoire. So there isn’t the scaffolding of a predetermined harmonic or rhythmic structure. At our concert with Damo Suzuki, we discussed instant-composing, as Can had referred to it. So we certainly dabble in philosophy – but first we just set up and play.
Would you like to talk a bit about your background?
We are outer-national. Although originating from the states of Iran, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Montenegro, Philippines, Washington (USA), Germany, et cetera – we refrain from feeding political narratives.
It is a creative force to blend artistic and cultural differences. We’ve fused experienced musicians with people who had never improvised before. One had only performed drone-solos with his self-built electronics. Another studied maqāms with a Qanun master, joining the morning after she retired from an Andalusian orchestra. Our homebase in Berlin is run by a fellow who played in punk bands back in the 90s, now contributing his knack for instrument trading as he often plays on synths acquired hours before a gig.
On guitar is a stage designer and craftsmen who managed to soundproof the original Enhancement Center so well, that we could blast the volume on Sabbath – despite the city’s religiosity and the Waldorf Astoria towering nearby. Our bassist runs the cassette label Kinship which also released our first album – ‘Who Corrupted Our Wave, Back in 1969?’
Are any of you involved in any other bands or do you have any active side-projects going on at this point?
Yes, we all are. Running studios, labels, other bands and solo acts, DJing as well as endeavouring in other artistic fields (theatre, stage design, audio-visuals, installations, et cetera).
What’s the story behind ‘Me And My Students Have Reached Higher Levels’ that was released via Akuphone?
Our artist Dima Rabik, based in St. Petersburg – who creates the microscopic ink illustrations appearing on all the album covers – was sent the recordings, to which he replied with the enigmatic and grammatically profound sentence which became the LP’s title. His artwork for the cover seems to absorb and even invoke such archetypical ascensions.
Someone overindulged and interrogated us: “But, wait.. who are the students?” The reply is fatefully and perplexingly ambiguous, like the question “who is me?” which is naturally born out of music-making.
Practically, it is a record that almost never got recorded. On the 24th of June, 2018 – exactly 6 months after the physical manifestation of the Enhancement Center – we gathered for the 3rd time ever. In preparation for our gig at the Dubstation stage of Fusion Festival, we gathered at synth-player Carl J Hoffmann’s Niedervolthoudini studio in Hamburg. We were joined by Camil Dumitrescu (Future Nuggets / The Holy Fix), who live-dubbed our acoustic drum kit with some outrageous effects.
Towards the end of the third day, nobody was feeling energized and we nearly decided to skip recording altogether. We finally settled for a very compact production. But that’s when the stuff we were most keen to release came through. We had only 4 stems: two drum mics, one channel for the bass guitar & synth and another stereo channel for the remaining five instruments.
You have a tape release via Crash Symbols. What’s the idea behind the ‘Transporting Salt’ release?
It is a compilation of tracks recorded on our first tour. It took some time to release, but was worth the wait. It includes recordings from our concerts at four great venues: Arkaoda (Berlin), Punctum (Praha), Rhiz (Vienna) and Golden Pudel (Hamburg). For each performance we were joined by a local bass player that we had only met at soundcheck.
The title and track names reflect the project’s metaphysical journeying. Somehow it is our most primal product – expressing feelings of nostalgia to formative days, personally and mythologically.
The artwork is an adaptation by our artist and designer Ventral is Golden of a beautiful piece by Dima called ‘Discourse With a Hermit’, which resonates with our own secret order. The former also made an ultra-cool T-Shirt version which you can still order via OYE Records.
Spiritczualic will be featured in the second volume of Kryptox’s ‘Kraut Jazz Futurism’ compilation, coming out in a few days. What can you tell us about this?
We are thrilled to have our track 360°of Harmony coming out on this compilation, to be released this Friday (March 19th). It is taken from our 4th LP entitled ‘Carpet Album’, to be released on Kryptox (Berlin) later this year. The sub-label of Gomma & Toy Tonics records, Kryptox has taken upon itself to extend some rather avant-garde genres of jazz and experimental-electronica to beyond the underground. The first compilation got lots of attention from the press. You can head over and pre-order the compilation here!
What are some bands/musicians that have a big influence on you?
Miles Davis, Don Cherry, Mo Boma, Keith Jarrett, Heliocentrics, Dead Can Dance, Steve Reich, Weather Report, Terry Riley, Lee Hazlewood, Flaming Lips, Broadcast, Psychic TV, Woo & Sasha Argov – to name a few.
What are some future plans?
Besides the mentioned ‘Carpet Album’ coming out on Kryptox, also due later this year is a record with Damo Suzuki recorded live at Arkaoda, Berlin. It will be our second release with Akuphone (Paris).
Besides these upcoming releases we are looking forward to more residencies in warehouses and bizarre spaces of any kind. Readers who can help us manifest unique locations with ludicrous reverberation and so on — reach out!
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
A lot of our favourite albums happen to be by the musicians that have influenced us.
Two delightful resources we turn to for recommendations are The Attic and Free Form Freakout. The latter we actually discovered when they featured our music (and subsequently selected us in their 2020 favorites).
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