Xochimoki – Temple of the New Sun

Out on 8th October via Phantom Limb, The Temple of the New Sun collects key works from Xochimoki’s broad history, newly remastered and available on vinyl for the first time. It’s a career compendium – an album recorded in New Mexico in the mid 1980’s but tracing a lineage back thousands of years…

Made up of celebrated ethnomusicologist Jim Berenholz and Aztec descendant / wisdom keeper Mazatl Galindo, Xochimoki summon feathered gods and animal spirits. They incant mythological folktales of celestial glory and supernatural dread.

Following from album opener ‘Pantzikuini’ released last month, you can listen to the hypnotic ‘Tua Ra’ here and below. A song written at a Toltec ceremonial centre in Mexico, it features tightly bound chords of rich vocal harmony and ritual drums.

“The text we sing on Tua Ra is from the Ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead” and is a song of praise to the rising sun”, the duo explained. “During our many visits to the ceremonial centers of the Maya, Toltec, etc, we became inspired to also explore the musical and spiritual traditions of other ancient pyramid-building civilizations like Egypt. It was our first collaborative exploration into that world, and this is the first version we recorded.”

Xochimoki’s songs are sung in Pre-Columbian Central and South American languages, including Nahuatl, Maya, Purepecha and Quechua. And much of their music was written at ancient ceremonial sites, in rituals and meditations, in communion with the spirits that rest there. There is an inherent sense of storytelling, of the peoples of the jungle and the earth living through this music.

Back in the 1980’s, record store clerks often filed the band’s self-released cassettes under the “New Age” tag. Admittedly, Xochimoki’s blissful layers of crystalline melodies, vocal chants and birdsong flutes could be laid at the altar of kanky? ongaku, “environmental music”, and their free flowing mysticism, cosmic spiritual energy and divination of nature are all elements in common, too. But while the “New Age” category may carry some stigma, Xochimoki never fall prey to its traps: the darkness, ritual and ghost stories of ancient Maya are present here too. Their sun worship also has a night. The rhythmic rush of their animal hide drums and Hopi bullroarers quickens the blood. They share with, say, Meitei or Popul Vuh a careful treading around dream worlds that verge on nightmares without ever leaning so far.

Galindo and Berenholtz began playing together in 1984, after driving into the United States from Mexico in a pickup truck crammed full of indigenous musical instruments. In the early days of the band, much of their touring experience mirrored the DIY scene, crashing on floors and playing gigs for gas money – a strange contrast to the transcendental music they were creating.

Previously Xochimoki self-released two cassettes, soundtracked the Albuquerque Museum’s touring exhibition MAYA: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization, and created several discs’ worth of further soundtrack music elsewhere before moving on to new and individual projects.


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