2011 was a golden year for vibes. It was the birth of the Now Age, ushered in through Taraka Larson’s epic Now Age Manifesto. Body Actualized Center opened on Troutman, hosting psychedelic yoga classes by day and epic dance parties by night. Blogland was hyped on Active Child and Panda Bear and Little Dragon and the DIY circuit always seemed to have a Prince Rama x Sun Araw bill handy. Pocahaunted broke up the previous year—Bethany Consentino focused in on Best Coast, Amanda Brown focused on Not Not Fun, and Leyna Noel released her first album as Psychic Reality, titled, appropriately, Vibrant New Age.
Four years later, the agonizing lived experience of our present-day dystopia has become so prescient that dreamvibe pop feels more precious than zeitgeist. But it’s always the truly apocalyptic times that drive people to reclaim the spiritual unrealities of new age crystal magicks and the tangible lived realities of bodies, those logics ringing truer than the hegemonic logic of racist cissexist heteropatriarchal capitalism. So it makes sense that four years later, Psychic Reality is back with another album, this one again appropriately titled Chassis.
Chassis is a result of four years marked by personal tragedies, sunsoaked escapes to Jamaica and LA, and four years of teaching pilates, focusing in on the physical core. The nine songs feel home recorded: slow and melodic, sketched out with synthesizers and vocals, dampened with distortion.
Chassis follows the internal logic of a physical record and one of the most striking moments is the proverbial Side A / Side B changeover. “Sueño”, a “praise melody steeped in dream logic” distills the hazy slowness of the record, meditating on the ephemeral nature of life through the refrain “loan, my loan.” The dream abruptly takes a sharp left turn into the fastest, most aggressive, and least abstract song on the record, “Bambini Art”, which tears into harassment and misogyny and fears for personal safety against beats and bass and distortion. “It’s a direct reply to men I’ve encountered,” writes Noel in an email, “Some name-checked and some not. Some nurtured me and some…not. Not even the worst one is the fucker outside a show in Bushwick who made a pass at me and, displeased with my response, said: “I know why women get beaten and killed.” I flipped him off but then got really blindingly scared after the fact. He and his friends, they could have just carried me off. Predation, sexual predation, and sexual predation of men who DJ in Williamsburg. Writing “Bambini Art” was the only move I could make.”
“Index of First Lines” closes out the record, oceanic and expansive, dreaming again, this time about love. Noel’s nostalgic ode to the first moments in a relationship could also easily sum up the nostalgia for the first vibes of the Now Age (now the Then Age?), or any hindsight into the halcyon from the holocene: “When we met, we had nothing but time.”
Chassis is out May 5 on Intercoastal Artists. Stream the full album below:
What have you been up to since the last Psychic Reality release? In the press release there’s a line about your “own pile-up.” does that refer to a literal car accident, or a figurative emotional pile-up?
Pile-up is major shorthand. Not to stay crypto but since the last Psychic Reality release I’ve been in a riptide—death, loss, change of coast, of career, and no music, not a song–and the ocean is fucking strong. If you fight you die so I just swam sideways along the shore for four years. Finally it heaved me out the other side of the rip, catching my breath on dry land and clutching this record—CHASSIS.
I’ve also moved more than 5000 bodies, as a pilates instructor.
I love the term “Chassis” because it relates to the body but also to constructed bodies. I’ve heard that your day job is as a pilates instructor. How is your work informed by the body?
Years back I crossed paths with Clare Amory (also in Excepter) who introduced me to Pilates, and became a close friend. So taken/ecstatic by Pilates’ salient corporeality I became as passionate about it as music, and Clare encouraged me to become a teacher. I left California for NYC to do this, but the timing was heartbreaking. Clare passed away five months after a stage four diagnosis. I took on Flesh + Bone, the Pilates studio in Williamsburg she founded, named for the medium we have to work with.
Crash course/ what the fuck is Pilates? All movement through the core. Hook directly into your anima and download the light. You learn how to move from the center first and it makes everything you do better: slam dunk, hang ten, have sex, dance drug-free, work on the computer without ruining your body. It’s kryptonite to weakness, pain, ache, ague, bad posture, bad attitudes, compression, injury, dysmorphia, dissociation.
And CHASSIS—that’s what’s inside us, underneath it all. The core, the motivating force. My dad was a race car driver, and I grew up hearing about the chassis after a wreck, whether it was shot, or intact. At Flesh + Bone I help people get into their bodies, tactically and tactilely. Suit ’em up so they can get in the car and DRIVE.
As I teenager I read an interview with Tori Amos where she said she didn’t want people to listen to her music to crawl into her head. She wanted people to crawl into their own heads. This still resonates in my rationale in my approach to teaching and to music.
To write this record, I applied the logic of the body. I went back to a sonic core, of songform more than trackdom. I used to write songs under my own name before I had gear. So for this record I wrote actual songs (on the gear) with a caveat: they had to translate live in a room, with nothing but voice and piano.
I challenged myself: If the power went out, was I still a musician?
CHASSIS = fuck YES
What brought you to Jamaica of all places? What did you do and experience during your time there and in what ways did that influence this album?
I knew Ged had been going to Jamaica to work with the Congos and on Duppy Gun, and I was about to finish my two-year jihad of a Pilates certification program here in NYC. The timing was on. To cite Wyclef Jean on The Score: I do my work and then I catch my ticket to Jamaica.
The morning after I tested out I got on a plane at 6am to Kingston to meet up with Ged, Tony and Cameron (Gengras, Lowe, Stallones). Less than an hour off the plane and standing under a tree in a courtyard with Ashanti Roy and my musical friends. This was some auspicious shit.
We ate jackfruit and every possible fruit, slept late, got stoney like hobbits eat, swam, drove around to IRIE FM. One of the best nights we went to a round robin, which is when all the bars in the town close except one bar that’s hosting, and each month a different bar is chosen. That night it was at Jenifer’s bar and took up the whole backstreet with frenetic dancehall—no hook longer than a minute and a half—and how good the dancing was.
Jamaica knocked me alive. I knew I finally had a record to make and asked Ged to collaborate. I got back and starting writing and demo-ing CHASSIS, til the end of that year then flew out first thing in 2014 to meet Ged in California.
I love when things are psychically tight. There’s ways jah jah energies are encoded onto the record. Some of the hits and bells from the Congos sessions are there in more-than-spirit. So it’s spirit major-league.
Plus the song “Island” is a version—I wrote it as a pop song and then Ged and I arranged a do-over of the song, turning into lover’s rock, which is what you hear on the record. I wanna collaborate with the Duppy Gun boys and do a series commissioning Jamaican vocalists to sing do-overs of songs written in the states. Hopefully we’ll find backing to do that.
There’s a warm lo-fi quality to a lot of the songs. Did you record them in a studio setting or were they home recorded?
The demos I made at home in Brooklyn using iphone voice memos in a totally cracked way. Mixer out into stereo headphones, cramming the microphone part of the shitty white headphones inside the earpiece. When I finished a song I’d email the demo to Ged, which informed our thinking and in some cases we kept the demo. The first sound on the record is the demo version of “Life is Long”.
CHASSIS proper we recorded in the house of M. Geddes Gengras and Caitlin C. Mitchell aka Green Machines MK II in East Los Angeles. Ged’s pro goods with a home feel. We tracked vocals in the bathroom when the pitbulls weren’t howling; hotboxed their three bedroom with rasta incense; dragged long XLRs out to the yard to mic the lemon tree and soak in the sounds of nighttime LA. It was a blast cuz Ged and me are like soul brother and sister, there’s a total creative isle of calm between us. Every day was music and great food, like in the salad days on tour with Pocahaunted. But meatier.