Natalie Rose LeBrecht

American Dreams Releases: Holy Prana Open Game

When I first heard Natalie Rose LeBrecht's time-suspending, air-ionizing music, more than twenty years ago, I thought "this kid is on to something." She's been proving that thought right ever since. Her recordings, from the teenage 4-track tapes she made as Greenpot Bluepot to the recent albums under her own name, have been fascinating dispatches from her progressively deeper dives into her gorgeous, weird, wildly idiomatic aesthetic. Holy Prana Open Game is a jewel of intensely personal cosmic music, created through a remarkable process of openness, craftiness, addition and subtraction. It belongs to a tradition of albums that document a rich, meditative sound as it rises up to join the world outside its creators' minds: Alice Coltrane's Universal Consciousness, Harmonia's Musik von Harmonia, Philip Glass's North Star, Talk Talk's Laughing Stock.

"Meditative" is specifically the idea here: Holy Prana Open Game had its origins in the fourteen days LeBrecht spent silently meditating in her home's small music room in the summer of 2019. "I came out of that bursting with the will to create new music," she says, and she created it sound-first. LeBrecht taught herself to program an analog synthesizer's timbres from scratch, and built a new set of glacial, heady compositions out of them, eventually singing to accompany the keyboard parts she was playing.

Then she closed her eyes at her computer, "let my mind be clear and open, imagined light pouring down through me, and began auto-writing to my memory of the music playing through my mind. Most of the lyrics emerged this way, and then I used my conscious mind to refine them a bit at the end." One other song came along with LeBrecht's new pieces, a cover that seems wildly unlikely from the outside and makes total sense in its context: it's a version of Atoms for Peace's "Amok" (which had been created by improvisation and editing, too), mutated into her own idiolect.

In early March of 2020, LeBrecht recorded Holy Prana Open Game's analog synth parts with Martin Bisi at his studio in Brooklyn--and then the world shut down. As you may have gathered, LeBrecht is very much a spiritual, head-in-the-stars type. She is also extremely hardcore, and if making the art she wants to make means doing things the hard way, she cracks her knuckles and gets down to it. Within weeks, she had taught herself how to record, mix and edit with a digital audio workstation. She recorded her vocal parts (sometimes multi-tracked into a radiant choir) at home, assembled a rough mix of the album, and sent it off to her collaborators.

LeBrecht spent some years studying with and assisting La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela at their legendary sound-and-light installation, the Dream House. As with their work, her singular, precisely focused vision is shored up by its openness to artistic voices beyond her own. For Holy Prana Open Game, she worked with the Australian guitarist Mick Turner and drummer Jim White (both of Dirty Three, the Tren Brothers and innumerable other projects), as well as woodwind player David Lackner, a longtime presence on her recordings.

Turner and White have been playing together in one context or another since 1985; in the summer of 2020, they were only blocks from each other in Melbourne, Australia, whose strict lockdown meant they couldn't meet up to record together. So both of them, as well as Lackner, recorded their improvisational additions to LeBrecht's rough mixes individually, often without hearing each other's contributions. "I had asked them to play as much as they could on each track," she says, "and told them that I would edit it all down in post, so I had a lot of source material of theirs to work with."

LeBrecht arranged and edited the recordings from all four of their homes to flow together like breath across the duration of her suite. Prana, one of the album's central conceits, is in fact the Sanskrit word for breath, with the connotation of the breath of life. Like LeBrecht's music, prana flows at its own pace, and demands stillness to take in fully--but it's also subtly playful and surprising, a force that can be as light as air or as immersive as the atmosphere itself.

--Douglas Wolk


© American Dreams Records 2021

Subscribe to the American Dreams Newsletter!