Al Washi: Epitaph for an Ego
Some people might already be familiar with this from my previous discussions of it, but there are still heads to be turned and this album is rather ripe for Waxidermic attention. This record cloaks itself in a thick smoke of mystery: no record label or date and it is even kind of unclear who the artist is (his name is either Yassun Dede or Al-Washi) and what the title is (it’s is either “Epitaph for and Ego” or “The Sacred Dances of the Wagshi Dervishes”). Even the most poetic free-association jumbling of sentences couldn’t do this baffling slab of audio mystification justice, but the liner notes do probably the most thorough job imaginable:
“Yassun Dede, called Al-Wahshi, which means ‘the Wilderness,’ says that he’s called Al-Wahshi because of his hobbies. He likes to fish and also works from time to time as opportunity presents as an itinerant slave trader, which is why, he says, he has spent a great deal of time ‘in the Field.’
Could he say something about the music? Yes. ‘Either wake me up of don’t; either remember yourself or don’t; either do work or don’t; it’s all one to me. But how can you stumble around in the dark and not realize God?’ The question was then asked, ‘How does that relate to the music?’ He said, ‘What are you idiots doing in my living room?'”
A little Google detective work reveals that the album is from 1971 and the composer is a rather enigmatic man named E.J. Gold (uncredited in the album’s liner notes), a guru-like figure championed by equally checked-out fringe writers like Robert Anton Wilson. Gold is himself an appropriately baffling (and rather hard to believe) character, a modern Renaissance man with a resume, browseable on his website, that includes doing artwork for Harry Nielsen, animating He-Man cartoons, writing over 30 books (or topics ranging from death, satire and “sexual alchemy”), working as a creative consultant for Elektra Records and Universal Studios, photographer for Tiger Beat, recording over 30 albums, scientific work on topics like transformative waveform analysis, and programming of spirituality-centered computer games, among many other things. Most importantly he has started 13 different “spiritual schools” with different focuses, such as Le Maison Rouge (focusing on Gurdjieff and shamanism), the Center for Conscious Birth (natural childbirth, Lamaze and shamanism), The Gabriel Project (gourmet feasts, readings and theater) and most recently internet teachings on electronic gaming and angels.
Apparently this album was redone somehow with newer pieces for cassette release in 1985 and for CD release in 1998 (sans the bizarre packaging), and Gold says that “through the use of sound, specifically variation in rhythmic structures, chord clash and subtractive frequencies, the velocity of the essential self moving through the lifetime (visualized as a tunnel) can be altered. This has the effect of disengaging the essential self from its hypnotic identification with the human biological machine.”