Magic and unseen forces are an important backbone to many projects in the underground scene, from dabbling in runes, occultism, voodoo, dream magic, spirit lore, and so on, to having their live performances mimic rituals and tribal incantations. Powerful or mystical, having magic in music is definitely alluring.
Rasplyn is the moniker and solo project of Carolyn O’Neill, who carves her own niche to the unknown by incorporating her clairvoyant and psychic abilities into her music. O’Neill, by trade, is a professional clairvoyant reader and energy healer who is studying to be a psychic meditation teacher. She’s also a trained musician and has fused all of these facets together in her spiritual journey. The end result is her debut, which was released in November of last year, Scenes Through the Magic Eye. O’Neill describes a part of her journey that led to the album as such:
“My clairvoyant work has led me to realize that I have unknowingly foreshadowed future events in my life through my music composition. For instance, back in 2004 when I was in music school, I composed a piece for chamber orchestra which I titled ‘Scenes Through the Magic Eye’, at the time having no awareness of my clairvoyant capabilities and without an intention to ever pursue that form of reading. I had always been a card reader and had psychic phenomena happen in my dreams often, but I was unaware that I could develop clairvoyance as a skill and a way to read energy. It wasn’t until after I had become a clairvoyant reader, that one day it hit me in a profound way that I had written a piece of music about myself doing this very thing eight years prior. It was at that moment that I decided that I needed to call my album ‘Scenes Through the Magic Eye’ as all of the music on it was written while I was completely engrossed in developing this skill for myself, and as an homage to the art form that clairvoyance is.”
The music genre of Scenes Through the Magic Eye is hard to pin down. It certainly is well within the realm of the ambient genre with its dark and atmospheric instrumentals. However, there are other nuances of the album that make it more multifaceted. There’s an ethereal and ancient quality to many of the tracks, with bells and chanting, but on the other hand there are modern elements in the songs too, such as dream-pop or cinematic vibes. For example, the second track, “Priestess of the Goddess,” has a film-score quality to it. There are moments in the song that would be suitable as cues in an urban-fantasy film like The Crow or Dark City. The film scoring simile is definitely felt by O’Neill, who explains her creative process and how it affects her well-being as such:
“I have always seen a visual story when I write my music. When I sit down to write, the imagery and music come to me simultaneously and seem to flow out of me, and it becomes very much like I am scoring a film that is playing from my dream space. I get completely lost in it, and more often than not, after a few hours I snap out of it, not really knowing how all of the music got there. My body definitely makes it happen, but it’s very much like I am channeling spirit when I write and I find it to be incredibly cathartic. I always feel like I’ve cleared a lot of energy after I perform or write. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am reliving and healing certain parts of my spirit’s past experiences, and seeing things about myself, about my pain, my passion, and about my capabilities as a human being by being shown these moments of intense strength and weakness again, to learn from, and so that this time around I make better choices in life.”
Aside from the scoring aspect, tracks on Scenes Through the Magic Eye evoke other feelings as well. “Temple Moon” is perhaps the most intense track and the chanting/humming builds strongly into a crescendo, at times creating enough tension to make the listener nervous that something powerful is about to happen. The final track, “Yetzer Ra/Derech Hashem,” is the most accessible song on the album. The subtle effects-driven guitars give the track a shoegaze quality and keeps with the cinematic qualities of Scenes Through the Magic Eye as a whole. The song sounds like it would be perfect to play over the end credits of a film.
Aside from the beginning track, “Circle Round,” lyrical singing is absent from Scenes Through the Magic Eye. Instead, the album is a cornucopia of other vocal work that mashes up chanting, new-age voice layering, and humming. These vocals are less than singing; rather, they are another instrument for these mystic soundscapes. Per O’Neill:
“I vocalize whatever naturally flows out of my mouth along with a track. There is literally no pre-planning involved, not even lyrically. I usually write most of the music for a track first and then add vocals as if it is just another instrumental line, and I sing whatever sounds or words just naturally come out of me and seem to go with the music.”
If there is a fault with Scenes Through the Magic Eye, it is that despite some of its music embellishments, it perhaps owes a little too much to the dark ambient genre and, in effect, isolates the listener. The album conveys that listening to it should be a two-person journey: O’Neill herself guiding, narrating, or directing the listener on a journey into a different state:
“My hope is for people who enjoy my music to see and hear stories of their own in it. I hope it awakens in them a desire to communicate with their own spirits and to see what lessons and healing they can gain from that incredible relationship.”
This is a noble intent, and O’Neill makes the best attempt possible, but what is holding her back from accomplishing this feat is that the reliance on being an ambient artist causes the tracks to bleed a little too well together. There are many long instances on the album in which the tracks become indistinguishable from each other, which in turn causes the listener to have only a few moments to anchor themselves to the soundscape to be carried away on the journey. In this case, the music may simply become background or atmospheric music, when its purpose is to do something even greater. This can easily be countered by perhaps toning down the ambience and adding even more folk, world, and shamanistic elements to the songs, and by embracing lyrical singing even more. O’Neill has the chops to do it, as demonstrated by the opening track “Circle Round.”
Scenes Through the Magic Eye comes in two versions: a physical digipak release limited to a hundred copies and a download version from the Mythical Records Bandcamp page. The digipak is nicely presented with pictures of O’Neill in a forested, shamanistic setting. The visual cues it gives off complement the music well. There is a difference between the two releases in that the final track of the digipak version is the aforementioned “Yetzer Ra/Derech Hashem,” while the download has a remix of “Priestess of the Goddess” in its place. Per O’Neill, the alternate version of “Priestess of the Goddess” came about from Brett Branning, the owner of Mythical Records, wanting to remix a Rasplyn track using his Ephemeral Mists project. “Yetzer Ra/Derech Hashem,” a collaborative track between O’Neill and Philippe Gerber’s John 3:16 project, is Raspyln’s most streamed track and O’Neill wanted to do the song justice by giving it a physical release.
Scenes Through the Magic Eye is a solid debut for Rasplyn. O’Neill nails foundational ambiance in her tracks, but she needs to build on it with a bit more variety and embellishment. This is a first stab at the formula, and O’Neill certainly has the capabilities to hone it. There is a definite journey going on with Rasplyn, and it is hoped it will be continued in a sophomore album.
01) Circle Round
02) Priestess of the Goddess
03) Treasures Drowned
04) Open Door
05) Temple Moon
06) Among the Stars
07) Yetzer Ra/Derech Hashem