Ak’chamel, The Giver of Illness ‘The Totemist’ LP (Akuphone) 4/5

The Totemist is the first wax release from Ak’chamel, The Giver of Illness aka Ak’chamel, The Ecstatic Brotherhood of Nux Vomica, self-proclaimed “fourth world post-colonial cultural cannibalists circumcising the foreskin of enlightenment”. They remain shrouded in mystery with their faces obscured by homemade masks. Their previous cassette releases are lo-fi mystical adventures incorporating a long list of instruments such as balalaika, oud, sitar, saz and flutes. With The Totemist, the production values are higher but the colossal array of instruments are here, mixed with found sounds recorded at Terlingua cemetery out in the Chihuahuan desert; invoking the ghosts of the Chisos quicksilver mines.

Primeval rifferama propels “Firedriver” while voices, keys and other sounds drone ethereally. The riff peters out to flutes and bird calls merging into brooding keyboards; sounding something like the lost soundtrack to an early 70s Jess Franco movie, complete with echo-y vocals cackling and breathing unknown words.

“The Funeral of a Woman Whose Soul is Trapped in the Sun” is a lush layered danse macabre with reverberated guitar clashing against the relentless hand drum beat until a late flourish of nature, claves and delicate strummed chords. Ominous Tuvan throat flute style chanting introduces “Protected by the Ejaculation of Serpents” evolving into disjointed folky desert rock.

“Dark Hat” is the soundtrack of the souk passed through a psychedelic prism. The doom-laden “To Travel the Path of Every Sickness” bludgeons the listener with dramatic percussion bursts and deep vocals reminiscent of Russian male voice choirs! The epic trance-inducing “Phallus Palace” is a repetitive acoustic space rock jam concluding in droning chants and sitar swirls.

World folk, psychedelia and stoner merge in The Totemist evoking ritualistic behaviours and shadowy objects just inside your peripheral vision. Whether the spirits summoned are good or malevolent, whether Ak’chamel are shamans or charlatans, the music is refreshing, exciting and engrossing.

Kevin Ward