Samsara Sun – White Soul Black Hearts

LP released October 2014

Tracks

1. Fire On Water
2. In The Dirt
3. White Soul Black Heart
4. Natural World
5. Two Worlds Two Hands
6. Music For A Film Part 1
7. Follow Me Down
8. In The Final Hour
9. The Boat That We Built
10. If I Only Could

Get your hands on a copy of the album!

$25
CD & Download
Limited Edition of 100
Original Artist Print cover by Jenny Mai Hall

$15
Digital Download

White Soul Black Hearts - Samsara Sun

Produced by Dan Licht, Josh Licht & Jeff Springfield.
Engineered by Jeff Springfield & Stuart Prentice,
with assistance from Heath King & Dave Stergo.
Preliminary four track recording by Dan Licht.
Mixed by Jeff Springfield at Springfield Music Studios springfieldmusic.com.au
Mastered by David Miller at Skyhigh Mastering – skyhighmastering.com
Cover Art by Jenny Mai Hall – jennymaihall.com
Layout & Design by Emma Johnson – emmajohnson.net
Photography by Emma Johnson & Dan Licht, including images taken from Bruno’s Sculpture Garden, Marysville, Victoria, Australia – brunosart.com
© 2014

Reviews

Under the name of ‘Samsara Sun’, Dan Licht is about to release an album aptly titled: White Soul, Black Hearts.

Samsara Sun is not out to compromise ideals or to comfort you and the poetry used throughout is meaningful, cinematic and straight in your face. If you could imagine the writings of Jim Morrison, James Taylor and Nick Cave being poured into a mixing bowl with extra emotion and a lesson for all added gently and not subtly,  this is that album. It has been gently stirred by a tsunami of thought.

It is a tale of deeds mis-done, adventures mistakenly undertaken, people overcome, rituals questioned and beliefs hammered into the ground.

Whilst the album is, undoubtedly, dark and moody it is neither disingenuous nor disengaging; to an extent it is a modern take on the ‘dreamtime’.

Musically the bass flows mellifluously throughout and is beautifully played giving extra depth to the rhythm section, with meaningful almost pleading vocals adding angst all of its own.

This is not an easy album but it is challenging, well produced and something to listen to over and over again to gain different perspectives.

The first track (Fire On Water) is, to me, the most radio friendly and an excellent opener to the album as a whole; it sets the pace, colour, thrust and direction for the tracks to follow which could only have been written by someone with true insight into Australia at large.

There is a deep conscience at play here, one not normally found on many albums these days; in fact, there is a ‘concept’ behind this album which the listener interprets at his/her own discretion and timing.

The balance of all instruments is well managed throughout, whether it is keyboards, guitars, drums or other instrumentation and the background harmonies/vocals are placed exactly where they should be.

This is, to an extent, a musician’s album in which inner thoughts are shared openly and not randomly. Do not expect toe tapping rhythms but do expect to be challenged and pleased and left, hopefully, with a slight feeling of unease at man’s ineptitude on this planet.

Tony Bates. Uncut & Unsigned. www.3MDR.com

Piano Man - Bruno Torfs

Interviews

Dale Blair: I’m here with Dan Licht in the studios of 3MDR, and Dan has just produced a new album called White Soul Black Hearts under your pseudonym Samsara Sun. So tell us a bit about Samsara Sun, is it a collective, is it an individual?

Dan Licht: It’s something in between, an umbrella that I can write and record under. Whether it’s me or whether I get other people involved, but it’s not a band with a fixed line-up.

DB: I know the lyrics are integral to your story as part of the album and as an artist, but even if you take away the lyrics you’re left with this wonderful aural quality, a soundscape of music. This I think comes also from the other players on the album, they’ve added really nice tones and depth.

A philosophy of mine, is that an album has to have a consistency, a feel about them, to resonate. This album really does have that.

DL: I was definitely going for that, like the idea of the 1970’s concept album. It’s a collection of songs where the themes, sounds and the styles overlap.

DB: In regard to In The Final Hour, this really has a prog rock ballad feel about it in the latter part of that song as you get into the guitar solo. I was reminded of Kate Bush’s James and the Cold Gun,

DL: That’s interesting, I really love Kate Bush, I’m not actually familiar with that song. A lot of her best music is also very layered and textured.

DB: James and the Cold Gun was going to be the first single, but she insisted that it be Wuthering Heights.

And the other thing that comes through is your work with Dogma Free Gospel, your old gang. It’s got a little bit of that flavour, a bit of reggae and R’n’B.

DL: Yes, but it’s different too, as the DFG was a conventional band, with a conventional line up and instrumentation, but because of events that transpired, the band folded shortly after the release of the album.

DB: I feel this comes through very strongly. The tragic death of your friend Darren Jones, who was in The DFG with you.

DL: That is integral to the story. For a long time it was very difficult to talk about, not just for me but for others as well.

DB: Certainly there’s a wistfulness to some of these songs, a sadness about events, Fire On Water speaks about cultural insensitivity, which is a reoccurring theme, it comes up again in Two Worlds Two Hands.

DL: And The Boat That We Built, which is a kind of elaborate metaphor, is drenched in loss. But I also tried to get a balance, for example the last verse of If I Only Could is very positive and affirming.

DB: I described If I Only Could as gorgeous affirmation.

DL: It’s the last verse of the album, Don’t be afraid of the storm, for it brings rain to the fields at dawn, and we will reap what we have sown, in the sun. I was fully aware of the emotionally charged and heavy nature of a lot of the songs, so at the same time, out of this tragedy and all the change that has come with that, I wanted it to acknowledge there is good. This, and The Boat That We Built allude to rebirth.

DB: The Boat That We Built has a certain bleakness about it, you set off with your hopes and dreams, become marooned out on the ocean and you can’t get back to shore, you don’t know whats going on. It’s a ship of lost dreams.

DL: I had a couple of ideas overlapping there. I was dealing with my own personal grief and the changes in my life, so on one level The Boat That We Built was a metaphor for my identity and the music I created with Darren, but there was also another element which I was thinking about concurrently. My Aunty Penny lived in a place in Newcastle, in the north of England called Walls End, named as such because when the Roman’s built Hadrian’s Wall, that is where the wall ended. It was a premier ship building city for many years. When I was 9 years old we stayed there, and out of the window in the room my brother & I shared you could see a few of the cranes, but 20 years earlier it had been very much more industrious and now it doesn’t exist at all. Grief can have a strange effect on your thinking, and for whatever reason, during that period I did reflect back to being a boy and regressed to things that might be quite vague, relating to your childhood or whatever. So I suppose The Boat That We Built was an amalgam of that, drawing an analogy between my personal story with the demise of the ship building industry in the north of England.

DB: It works on all those levels, so it can be quite concrete in some ways but it can be abstract as well. Following this song, which is great choice to finish the album, is If I Only Could.

DL: It was an afterthought actually, I had the other nine songs, and I went away to Gembrook Retreat with my partner Emma, where there’s no electricity and we cooked on the fire. I was just sitting there playing my mandolin, singing some songs and I thought it might be nice to finish the record with a little mandolin song. I remembered an old song I’d written, If I Only Could. The original demo had quite a dirge like piano, but I picked up the tempo just a little and adapted it to mandolin, then sang the song in duet with my old singing partner from The DFG, Neesy Smith, and also added additional harmonies. Then my brother, Josh Licht, added the evocative Irish low whistle. It’s like the rest of the album takes you on a journey because it’s very layered and textured, but If I Only Could, being a simple folky, gospel type song, it has this rural bucolic feeling, that brings you back into your body.

DB: That comes up in some other the other songs on the album, Natural World and In The Final Hour, both of which talk about the idea that modernity has made us lose our way a little bit. Then with the reference to passing through the storm, and coming out the other end with hope and we reap what we sow, so the songs on the album hang together really well.

DL: I’ve put a lot of time and thought into the songs that I eventually chose for the album as well as the running order. I wrote and recorded a whole bunch of other stuff concurrently and since, but sonically and thematically, the songs had to fit a certain mold to make it onto this record.

DB: From inception to here, how long has it taken to put the album together?

DL: It’s taken nearly 7 years to write and record, although not consecutively, there were two years in the middle when I didn’t even listen to it. Some crazy shit happened, and I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to keep working on it at that point. So it’s had a long and somewhat difficult gestation period.

DB: Part of that difficulty would be losing friends like Darren Jones and Heath King, both of whom you’ve played music with, and Heath King actually features on this album.

DL: That’s exactly right, these things are sent to test us. For a while I just didn’t want to be reminded of it, I needed to let go.

DB: Do you feel, in those personal terms, that the album was cathartic and allows you to move on?

DL: Yeah, I think so now.

DB:  Music For A Film Part 1, track 6 on the album, is an instrumental song with voice used as an instrument. What would the film be?

DL: 
That’s a good question! To me it sounds like it could be preceding a battle scene or something, it’s a mixture of the cinematic and bombastic.

DB: Two Worlds Two Hands spoke to me as a progression of Fire on Water, which is only 4 songs before it, although it’s also open in terms of how you would interpret that song. What is it actually about?

DL:  Fire on Water alluded to a few different things and was perhaps more general, which I thought was more befitting of the opening track. Two Worlds Two Hands zooms in. It is the story of Jandamarra. He was a Bunuba man from the Kimberley in Western Australia. Paul Kelly also wrote a song about Jandamarra, and in his book How To Make Gravy he talks about how even though The Bunuba Resistance and The Kelly Gang were historically almost contemporaneous, everyone knows the story of Ned Kelly, but hardly anyone knows the story of Jandamarra and the Bunuba people. He was an aboriginal resistance fighter who’d moved between two worlds, he was a brilliant marksman and horseman, and had lived and assimilated into the white mans world. But events transpired where he  turned back to his people. He had a road to Damascus moment. So it’s basically his story. Although in the end the lyrics came out much more ambiguous.

DB: You don’t even mention his name in the song, so the story is inferred.

DL: In the end I was happier with that ambiguity, as there are issues of cultural sensitivity. Being a white fella, I could allude to it, without being specific about it. It can also become broader in its meaning, but that was what it’s about.

DB: Let’s finish by talking about the title track, White Soul Black Heart, it bespeaks of a very personal battle with finding oneself and place after trauma.

DL: Very much so, and I didn’t so much as write it rather spewed it out. I put the music together with the view of putting a melody and lyrics over it. It was sitting round for a couple of months, so I just had the backing music, and nothing had really grabbed me and then one night, I think it was a New Year’s Eve actually, and I was feeling quite lonely and something earlier in the week had upset me, and I really wan’t travelling very well, as you can probably tell from the mood of the song, and I just had this idea, I wanted to get the spontaneity and urgency like a Pentecostal preacher, devoid of any religious connotations, but that really strident vocal. I thought if I wrote something down that would probably ruin it, so I had this backing track and I literally just plugged a microphone into the four track recorder and gave it a little bit of reverb, which was originally going to be a guide vocal and i pretty much didn’t change it. This might be the only song where I’ve never written down any of the lyrics. I only wrote them out the other night to put on the website, after listening to it. It just came off the top of my head.

Dale Blair is an Australian author & broadcaster. 
www.openlibrary.com.au

Lyrics & Credits

FIRE ON WATER

Fire on water, two hundred years
no time to remember, history disappears
and we must let go of our illusions, I fear
fire on water

Fire, Fire, Fire on water
Fire, Fire, Fire on water

Fire on water, we swallow it down
distant thunder, no one heard a sound
and before too long, we may never be found
fire on water

Fire, Fire, Fire on water
Fire, Fire, Fire on water

Fire on water, backs to the wall
like the tower of babel, empires will fall
while we turn away and pretend it’s not happening at all
fire on water

Fire on water, behind the eyes
we try to remember, they say the time is nigh
but we’d never know for all the bullshit and lies
fire on water

Fire, Fire, Fire on water
Fire, Fire, Fire on water

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocals, piano, slide guitar, loop, effects. 
Stuart Prentice: bass. Josh Licht: drums. 
Heath King, Neesy Smith, Corinne Jones, D.L: bv’s

IN THE DIRT

I don’t believe in heaven
I believe in a sun so old
I don’t believe that Jesus died for you and I
I don’t believe the story that’s been told
Oh I believe in blood, flowing like red wine
like only a man could

I don’t believe in a golden age
I don’t believe a war can be won
I don’t believe the world was made for you and I
evolving and revolving round the sun
Oh I believe in blood, flowing like red wine
like only a man could

I’ll believe what I’ve heard
I’ll believe what I’ve seen
buried in the dirt
carbon fourteen

I don’t believe in heaven
I believe in a sun so old
I don’t believe that Jesus died for you and I
I don’t believe the story that’s been told
Oh I believe in blood, flowing like red wine
like only a man could

I’ll believe what I’ve heard
I’ll believe what I’ve seen
buried in the dirt
carbon fourteen

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocals, guitars, bass, b/wards guitar, keys, loops, bv’s. 
Josh Licht: drums, percussion, Tibetan singing bowls

WHITE SOUL BLACK HEART

Lately I’ve been getting caught up in my memory,
when dreams and a restless kind of vanity,
was all I’d need to keep open hearted.
But now to get back to the boy,
find some peace and sanity,
I must try to get back to where it started.
And you won’t see me in the crowd,
I get nervous when it gets too loud,
and I start to feel like I should have departed.

And don’t you talk down to me,
tell me how it’s supposed to be,
I won’t receive it.
And if you try to put me down,
I’ll be sure to stand my ground,
you better believe it.

Lately I’ve been getting caught up in my memory,
when dreams and a restless kind of vanity,
was all I’d need to keep open hearted.
But now to get back to the boy,
find some peace and sanity,
I must try to get back to where it started.

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocal, guitars, piano, keys, loop. 
Stuart Prentice: bass. Josh Licht: drums. 
Heath King, Neesy Smith, Dave Stergo, Sue Stergo, Corinne Jones: bv’s

NATURAL WORLD

In the city all you need is money
and there are fortunes to be found
for those in a hurry
worn out with worry

No seed to be found in concrete and steel
No peace to be found while you’re chained to the wheel
I’m going back to the natural world
Take me back to the natural world

Going down by the river, feel the sun on my shoulder
like a weary foot soldier, when the war is over
For I must dig much deeper, now our time is growing shorter
for I’m my brother’s keeper, it was he who brought me water

In the city you can be somebody
a man about town, as long as you’ve got money
there’s no need to worry

Plastic hearts, powders and pills
plastic cards, to pay for cheap thrills
I’m going back to the natural world
Take me back to the natural world

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocals, guitar, keys, percussion. 
Cam Walter: guitar. Stuart Prentice: bass, percussion. 
Josh Licht: drums. Heath King, Neesy Smith, D.L: bv’s.

TWO WORLDS TWO HANDS

Over red stone, red sands
shackles and in chains
fear in the whites of his eyes
Black crooked trees
boiling blood in the veins
under a desert sky

Two worlds, two hands
setting of the sun
tomorrow they’d lay low in the light
On the run
before the day had come
a gun shot in the night

Over dry bone, dry land
Blood under the sun
bodies bent and broken on the ground
In the limestone he’d hide
with women by his side
never to be found

Two worlds, two hands
coming of the sun
blinded by the light in their eyes
Black crooked trees
boiling blood in the veins
under a desert sky

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocals, piano, bass, treated piano, b/wards guitar, 
keys, ambient drum, loops, effects. 
Josh Licht: drums, djembe.

MUSIC FOR A FILM PART 1

Music: Dan Licht. 
Vocal arrangment: Dan Licht, Heath King, Neesy Smith.
D.L: piano, keys, loop. Stuart Prentice: fretless bass. 
Josh Licht: floor tom, cymbal swells.

FOLLOW ME DOWN

I heard an echo down the hall
we were dancing in the rain
I saw a shadow on the wall
call me back again

The blood from my face
the colour from my day
fade into grace
you come my way
if you follow me down

I heard a whisper in the night
rumours in the wind
the moon was riding high
the tide was coming in

The blood from my face
the colour from my day
fade into grace
you come my way
if you follow me down

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocal, piano, keys, harmonica, slide guitar. 
Cam Walter: guitar. Stuart Prentice: bass. 
Josh Licht: drums, cymbal swells.

IN THE FINAL HOUR

Through the fields so dry,
the vineyards and farms,
and the trees so high,
we pray for rain on hallowed ground.
Beneath the January moon,
hoping that the rain would come soon,
we wait and pass the pipe around.
On the hill where time stood still,
you could see the lights from the city,
a symbol of illusion and power,
but to the old man in the valley,
it did not look so pretty,
from his old wooden tower.

In the final hour,
we raise our heads to the sun.
And the colours bled into one,
in the final hour.

In a land of fallen dreams,
all the way down through the valleys and streams,
where river once had run,
in a time when the people of the land,
long before they died at the hand,
of white man, white law, white gun.
On the hill where time stood still,
you could see the lights from the city,
a symbol of illusion and power,
but to the old man in the valley,
it did not look so pretty,
from his old wooden tower.

In the final hour,
we raise our heads to the sun.
And the colours bled into one,
in the final hour.

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocal, guitar, piano, keys. Cam Walter: guitar. 
Stuart Prentice: bass. Josh Licht: drums. 
Heath King, Neesy Smith, D.L: bv’s.

THE BOAT THAT WE BUILT

The boat that we built
long ago it set sail
on a wild wild sea
over the horizon
falling and rising
like a memory

I went down to the water
under clouds of alabaster
where the wind and the rain
wash me clean
but now rust and decay
is all that remains to be seen

Drifting forevermore
So far away from the shore
No cargo to carry anymore
Bathed in blue light
no harbour in sight
fade into the night

The boat that we built
long ago it set sail
on a wild, wild sea
over the horizon
falling and rising
like a memory

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocals, guitars, b/wards guitar, mandolin, keys, bv’s, ambience.

IF I ONLY COULD

If I only could
turn back the tide
then I surely would
in my neighbourhood

If the devil came down
turned out the sun
turned day into night
on everyone
Is it only then
we’d appreciate the sun
the sun?

If I only could
turn back the tide
then I surely would
in my neighbourhood

Don’t be afraid of the storm
for it brings rain to the fields at dawn
and we will reap what we have sown
in the sun

Words & Music: Dan Licht.
D.L: vocal, bv’s, mandolin, harmonica. Neesy Smith: duet vocal, bv’s.  Josh Licht: low whistle, drums.