The wand is a symbol of magic, but it’s not its sole generator. As Cory Hanson suggested in the Wild Magazine, "'a wand is more of an idea, like a magical tool … It’s a means, a vessel to execute a superhuman thing.'"
Hanson’s band Wand have existed for just about four years and already they have four LPs behind them. As if that weren’t already a magically prolific output, he also released a solo album in 2016 and formed part of Ty Segall’s backing band, the Muggers, in support of Segall’s 2016 release.
Hanson’s newest effort with Wand is very simply entitled “Plum.” It’s a title that would seem to deflect rationality in favor of a sound, a moment in time, an act of being -- and that is the magic of the album, which finds its visual correlate in its artwork.
“I just Google searched ‘blue cloud’ and then just used it. I did a little variation of it so we didn’t get sued,” Hanson told me over the phone last month.
“It’s a very concise, very simple psychedelic gesture to just have a single abstraction. That’s a big thing for us as a band that’s been pegged as a historically psychedelic rock band. It felt appropriate to have something as stupidly simple as possible,” he added.
While “Plum” isn’t minimal per se, it does have a meditative simplicity about it. Songs like “The Trap,” “Ginger” and “Blue Cloud” offset the more rock-minded hooks and riffs of “Bee Karma” and “High Rise.” There’s something feathery and light permeating the whole affair -- cloud-like, you might say -- and for the synesthetic among us, it evokes blues and purples seen through a cellophane mist.
As such, “Plum” has somewhat of an East Asian sensibility -- not necessarily encapsulated in the melodies themselves (although occasionally they do veer in that direction), but more in the album’s headspace.
“We were preoccupied with improvisation; we spent most of our time improvising … like [Krautrock pioneers] Can and a lot of Miles Davis records,” Hanson said.
There’s perhaps no better way to be present in a moment than through the improvisation of sound over time, but that’s not to say that the album was devoid of critical and/or editorial thought. In fact, quite the contrary.
Hanson, who studied fine art at the California Institute of the Arts, is well-versed in the practice of critique and criticism even though he might not have studied music itself.
“That definitely had an impact on the way that we write,” he said. “But the way that I play music is the same way that everyone else does -- you look at people like John Coltrane and Miles Davis who had no institutional training and are now institutional backbones.”
What Hanson found important about his institutional study of art wasn’t the practice of craft and technicality, but the fact that “critique classes gave you full permission to be really miserable or ecstatic.”
“And in a band, you really need permission to feel,” he added.
Wand headline Casbah on Sunday, Sept. 24. Get tickets here.