Arcana - Jef Stott

Six Degrees

Jef Stott's latest release is called Arcana, but it might just as well have been named Beyond Hookahdome. The San Francisco DJ has performed four years at the fabled Arabic-themed chill lounge that restores and centres the tribal masses on the Playa at Burning Man. If one chooses to believe in the healing quality of vibrations, the therapeutic power of Arcana is palpable; possibly because personal circumstances imbued the album with Stott's own strong desire to recapture balance in his life. A couple of months into the recording, his apartment was broken into and his unfinished work ripped from his life along with the hard drive where it lived; this on the heels of a breakup from a long term relationship and the loss of a career job. Of starting over, Stott explains, "It's about reclaiming my place in the world." An accomplished oud player, his music has always reflected Arab influence, but Arcana shimmers with added themes of femininity, collaborating with old friend Sonja Drakulich on the opener, Deep Playa and indie singer, Sophia Mae Lin on the mermaid tale, Pulling Of The Tide evoking underwater atmospheres in stark contrast to the images of acrid desert so predominant on his material. "It's an entirely new direction, very gothic and Celtic", he offers. As always the sound designer covers vast expanses of altitude, from the high wisps of female voice and lonely flutes down through deep subsonics of synth bass, enveloping the listener in rhythmic pulse and harmonic resonance. Always present in Stott's compositions is a circular time line that echos the past through acoustic elements, joins with the present in a cinematic soundtrack and peers ahead with future prescience through electronic realization. The cycle revolves and rewards the ears and the mind. Key tracks include the majestic Hero's Return and the driving Gnawa Jam.