Full Review of HIMALAYA in The Wire’s December 2019 Issue

Carl Stone made the wise decision to split his latest creations over several releases.

Carl Stone Himalaya Unseen Worlds CD/DL/2xLP


It takes 35 minutes to reach the summit of Carl Stone’s new Himalaya. To arrive there, you ascend through manically cut up and overlaid Afrobeats, funk and hiphop grooves together with a tasty disco riff that reassembles the very molecules of your being. Then, having hit the apex, Stone throws you into idyllic freefall for the next half hour, into a balmy environment of slow moving and ethereal tones, music that is as voluminous and prayer-like as the opening part is compacted and hedonistic.

The relationship between Himalaya and Stone’s release from earlier this year, Baroo, mirrors that between Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way – the later album building on the textural and harmonic palette of all that went before, while clawing open fresh expressive possibilities. The opening piece “Han Yan” tells you what to expect as high-speed Afrobeats hallucinate on their own existence. Musically, two things are happening. Stone has the beats on intense fast-forward, while little microedits snip out crucial supporting notes in the harmony, which spins the music relentlessly forwards – it has no brakes.

A strutting rock beat kick-starts “Bia Bia” before it lurches towards ebullient chaos, with broken-up trumpet fanfares randomly puncturing the texture like Lester Bowie is wandering in and out of earshot. “Kikanbou” is grounded by a mesmeric disco beat that keeps rolling for 17 minutes, a motor around which auxiliary beats circle. Around the six minute mark, and for no other reason than he can, Stone suddenly turns everything upside down and inside out, and upside out and downside up, leaving beats coiling in other directions and soaring upwards. The world’s pop music has become putty in Stone’s hands. Each piece could, in theory, keep reassembling its particles infinitely. But Stone applies his composerly voice with a noticeably light touch, making conscious decisions about his material without ever suffocating its freedom.

Had he signed off after “Kikanbou” Himalaya would still have been exceptional, but the final glide through spacious textures and rarefied tunings – leading towards intonations from the Japanese vocalist Akaihirume – reconnects your soul with the stuff of sound itself as you ruminate on an epic journey, both exhilarating and affecting.

Philip Clark

The Wire December 2019