The history of UnKindness Of Ravens (UKOR) is manifest in the Caves and Tropics album. Caves and Tropics is a result of a group of close friends, cohorts, and collaborators between the years of 1991-1999. This is about that. Much more happened later. Perhaps some day, documentation will be forthcoming.
We began at age sixteen and arrived at The Caves and Tropics album in our early 20s. It has a certain era quality to it that ought (possibly) to be preserved. In no particular order Mike Keigher, Derek Sakakura, Sean Gardner, Ian Lanphier, Andy Ehrhardt, Don Moretz, J. Barkelew, Me (Joshua Chalifour), I don’t mean to forget anyone but if they were near us, they became part of UKOR. We had guitars, a bass, a violin, harmonicas, flutes, keyboards, and the rest of the instruments we made or appropriated from found objects to make noise. From noise, to substances, to tech, to the kids with the pots and pans and a spiritual decision to seek out a panopoly of consciousness forms, mental states, or humor. We started doing it. UnKindness Of Ravens–Sean suggested the name, it fit instantly. An unkindness of ravens is parallel to a herd of cattle or flock of seagulls.
The act of UKOR is to gather as many people as are willing (or that we can coerce), as many instruments or things that can make sound, into a small space and start making noise. Music even; if it happened – the distinction however, wasn’t part of the conceptual vocabulary. The concept of UKOR as evidenced in Caves and Tropics, was that it didn’t matter whether anyone knew how to play anything, we simply wanted to lose ourselves in the pure moment of group creative act. Sessions last for hours. We record as much as possible, and that starts the process.
The first UKOR sessions were wonderful. Mike and I spent hours editing, cutting, adding, and mixing the sessions into a “cohesive” whole. This became Shoji Mahog’s Biglittle Room, the only masters of which, are lost. When it came time to start archiving old material, I could not find these masters, which led to UKOR’s “Tragedy of ’99.” Caves and Tropics contains no substances from Shoji Mahog’s Biglittle Room, but those of us that were there, can at least remember the room and the sessions that took place.
One session, the UKOR All Good Things Must Come Out, session takes its name from the fact that we heightened something in the special UKOR fashion.
For the Caves and Tropics album, Mike and I reviewed and selected the choice bits of all previous sessions to mix into a solid work. We added additional sounds, effects, and arranged everything just-so. We also arranged everything just-not-so. This established our technique for all the future albums. We think of it as exposing rather than composing. We expose the sounds, melodies, themes, etc. that underlie or emerge during recording and then we put them into a final structure.
A UKOR recording cannot include a list of the instruments each individual plays. As a matter of course, we take turns playing all of the instruments and a lot of times we create the instruments on the spot or near the spot. Most of us engage in vocals throughout the recordings. Only a person that was part of a session would know what he or she was playing. Even then, maybe not.