The Royal Arctic Institute
From Coma To Catharsis is the second full exploratory mission in the current five-piece incarnation of NYC/NJ-based instrumental ensemble, The Royal Arctic Institute. It’s the sequel to last year’s From Catnap To Coma, and like its predecessor, the new mini-album was recorded and produced by James McNew (Yo La Tengo) in the historic Neumann Leather Factory in Hoboken, New Jersey. From Coma To Catharsis is being released February 4th, 2023 by Already Dead Tapes and Records and will be available on cassette (duh!), as a paid download, and on streaming platforms. Later in the year, the band hopes to release both titles on vinyl.
At present, The Royal Arctic Institute comprises five musicians who have played extensively with other groups and/or as backing/session musicians: drummer Lyle Hysen (Das Damen, Arthur Lee, The Misguided), guitarists John Leon (Roky Erickson, Summer Wardrobe, Abra Moore) and Lynn Wright (And The Wiremen, Bee And Flower, Shilpa Ray), bassist David Motamed (Das Damen, Two Dollar Guitar, Arthur Lee, Townes Van Zandt), and keyboardist Carl Baggaley (Headbrain, Gramercy Arms).
What are the first things you would feel coming out of a coma? Would it be cathartic, a full release of all your emotions? What would that sound like? From Coma To Catharsis tries to capture that auditory experience replacing the steadfast emotions expressed on From Catnap to Coma with the sounds of dreaming, then awakenings.
All the pieces were created communally, deconstructing then reconstructing material mainly composed by guitarist John Leon with a couple written by other band members. McNew recorded the band in a live setting with no digital magic and minimal overdubs except for pedal steel work by John.
This record also highlights the band’s musical development after a further year of playing together. This includes songwriting contributions by Dave (“Angleman’s Lament”), and Lynn (“The Elated World”) as well as more input from Carl. “This is the third record I’ve played on,” explains Baggaley, “and on this one we really broke the songs down to the bones. I was able to bring in new influences like King Crimson-style mellotron and electric piano inspired by the late Billy Preston performances during the recording of the Beatles’ Let It Be album.” Besotted by 2021’s Beatles documentary series stemming from those sessions, Lyle draped his drums in tea-towels ala Ringo for the song “Passover Bucket.”
Regarding that same title, John says, “During the COVID lockdown, everyone’s kids were home and parents were scrambling and grasping at straws to entertain them. A Jewish friend of mine decided to celebrate Easter with her children to give them something to do. They were fascinated by the concept of Easter baskets. The following year, instead of Easter baskets, the children were given Passover Buckets to keep them quiet.”
From Coma To Catharsis is, sadly, guitarist Lynn Wright’s last work with the band as a full member as he’s recently relocated to Berlin to further his career in music and fine dining. The band will continue to play shows and record with Lynn when possible, but perhaps as the past two years have shown us, who knows if everything will be cathartic, or just a return to a coma.