Robert Lowe not only sings and plays bass in 90 Day Men, but also recently joined TV On The Radio. For his solo work, he uses the name Lichens, and his long, droning pieces are pretty far removed from either of the aforementioned artists. The Psychic Nature Of Being is his debut full length CD (although he has performed several times live) and it documents his improvisational songcraft with three long tracks performed without any overdubbing or editing.
With guitar, vocals, effects, some minimal percussion, and a glow of reverb, his tracks recall the work of everyone from John Fahey to darker, more experimental drone artists. "Kirlian Auras" opens the disc with baritone moans of wordless vocals that stretch and drift out over washes of guitar feedback and even more layers of vocals that sound like incantations or evocations in a misunderstood language. Around the middle of the track, some delicate picked acoustic guitar work helps give some form and body to the track, but parts and splits and eventually falls away leaving just the droning winds.
"Shoreline Scoring" follows a somewhat similar structure as it opens with eerie, looping drones that mix vocals with guitar wash in an increasingly tense way before acoustic guitar picking comes in and anchors the track towards the latter part. "You Are Excrement, You Can Turn Yourself Into Gold" closes the release, and at over twenty minutes comprises half the running length of the entire CD. Built with the same elements as the previous tracks, it nonetheless feels a bit more sparse and dynamic despite the longer running length (mostly because the drones themselves are a bit less overwhelming). At times, the two elements (the dramatic, almost driving acoustic guitars and the drones) feel almost at odds with one another, yet at others they seem to lock up almost perfectly and create some sort of primal tug that is seemingly the goal of all improvised music. Given the palette of sound, Lichens creates a unique (if somewhat creepy at times) environment. Similar to Charalambides in several ways, The Psychic Nature Of Being is a release that is stunning in places and somewhat sluggish in others.