“In the ancient of days, we gathered up from the mud.”
Olympia, Washington. New Year’s Day, 1995. A dark and smelly basement.
Three young musicians gather to tackle the vast songbook of Arrington de Dionyso. They had heard his self-recorded cassettes. The songs were wild and lovely. Arrington (the rebellious son of Methodist ministers) played every instrument with the soul of an outsider artist who didn’t know any better.
He knew he needed to bring his songs to life.
The original trio was brought together for one show. You know – just to see what would happen. They called themselves Old Time Relijun.
Arrington played a $20 guitar and a beat up bass clarinet. He sang with a mixture of piss and vinegar that exploded with naive charisma. Bryce Panic harassed the drums. Aaron Hartman (Girls in Trouble) beat on a two-string upright bass with a microphone taped to its bridge. They communicated with the clairvoyance of long-married ninjas.
That first show, everything went red: strings broke, the bass was a solid mass of feedback, the PA was blown. They used Arrington’s songs as a template to meld shock-ritual with a mad-tea-party-dance-vibe. They barely noticed the college kids in full Riot Grrrl gear screaming, they had no idea that punkers and hippies were dancing together. Something awful happened that night.
A band was born.
Soon they were playing full sets to friends and taste-making Olympia hipsters alike. They played every show they could – whether or not they were on the bill. They developed the kind of intuitive free-jazz rapport most bands could only dream of.
In 1996, OTR recorded their first album, “Songbook Volume One”. They released it themselves, financing the production by tricking a friend out of his meager inheritance. The CD was packaged in stolen popcorn bags.
In 1997, Calvin Johnson invited the band to record a song for the “Selector Dub Narcotic” compilation for his K Records label. From there, a beautiful relationship was born.
After Bryce left to pursue a life of dance and yoga in India, one of the band’s younger fans, Phil Elvrum, asked if he could join. He moved to Olympia, and OTR’s second of many lives began. Phil’s caveman beats and undeniable production savvy helped launch the first three Relijun albums K would release. “Uterus and Fire” (1999), was a bombastic exercise in recording in the red. “La Sirena de Pecera” (2000) was a one-night multilingual wonder, acting as a coda to “Uterus’”unyielding momentum. Then came the band’s first true masterwork, “Witchcraft Rebellion” (2001), an album as deep and bizarre as anything you’ll find on your record shelf. A retelling of the first chapters of Genesis from the serpent’s point of view.
After a couple U.S. and European tours, Phil decided to focus his energy on his recording projects and his own band, the Microphones. Old Time Relijun continued in a variety of mutated formations, with various lost souls sitting behind the drum set.
“As above, so below”
The group experienced a brief lull in activity as Arrington began a period of vagabonding that would take him hitch-hiking across the United States and back and forth between Italy, France, and Argentina. A compilation of unreleased oddities, “Varieties of Religious Experience”, was released in 2003, and both Arrington and Aaron had time to reevaluate the direction their band would take.
During his travels, Arrington composed an outline for what would become “The Lost Light Trilogy”. The first two installments, Lost Light (2003) and 2012 (2005), recorded with the help of drummers Rives Elliot and Jamie Peterson, respectively, saw extensive touring, a wider audience for the band, as well as high praise from critics world wide.
Arrington likes to say, “Every song on each album has a correspondence to other songs, whether musically or lyrically; with exponentially as a spatial archetype. Each song is like a small shard of a larger mirror – so that each piece reflects another piece, much in the way a cubist painting reflects many perspectives of the same object at once.”
The trilogy moves like an odyssey which blurs the lines between dream and life – placing the entire Universe within the expansive structure of three Old Time Relijun albums.
Now based in Portland, Oregon, Old Time Relijun have re-invented themselves again. The final installment of the trilogy, Catharsis in Crisis, is the culmination of twelve years of deceptively untutored refinement. With new members Germaine Baca (drums) and Benjamin Hartman (saxophones), Old Time Relijun keeps charting new territories in the nether regions between the Ancient World and the Invisible New.
These songs are at once autobiography, dream diary, and new myth – politically and sexually charged manifestos for alchemical revolution from a fully realized band, whose conceptual roots dig down as deep as their music. Old Time Relijun songs embrace life in all its joy and terror- birth, death, awareness, experience, love. Live or recorded, they don’t shy away from confronting the monsters that lurk deep in the shadows. At the same time, we hear a band that takes sheer vibrant delight in playing and being alive.