Label: International Anthem Recording Company
Extra Presence is a 90 minute, 17-track collection showcasing Los Angeles modern music scene pioneer Carlos Niño’s unique, highly developed, self-described “Spiritual, Improvisational, Space Collage” sound, and featuring an incredible cast of collaborators (including Jamael Dean, Nate Mercereau, Shabazz Palaces, Deantoni Parks, Sam Gendel, Laraaji, Jamire Williams, Iasos, and more). It's an expanded edition of a 10-track suite called 'Actual Presence' that Niño self-released exclusively via his Bandcamp page in 2020.
Extra Presence liner notes by Marty Sartini Garner:
When Carlos Niño is performing with his friends, he is embedded in the present. And from there, it seems like he can see anything: every possible place a song might go, how a sound might evolve, whether or not it will make his listeners and collaborators feel seen and appreciated. He is a maestro of arranging time and space into supportive containers, somehow completely in sync with the moment and beyond all chronology. And over the past couple of years, when the concepts of space and time have dilated and gone sideways for so many of us, Carlos’ attempts to crystallize the moments he and his friends produce and present us with songs ripe with possibility, chance, and the care that radiates naturally among musicians who love and trust one another has felt like an act of profound kindness.
In 2020, when the world entered into lockdown, Carlos engaged in his studio in Woodland Hills, CA, where he pored over tapes from past improv sessions. One in particular stuck out, a February 2019 Just Jazz gig with Devin Daniels, Jamael Dean, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and Randy Gloss. On stage that night, he’d been confused and uncomfortable, he didn’t understand his relationship with an audience. “I had a revelation that night,” he says. “What I present in concert is sonic journeying—not a set of songs, or a program, or a performative energy.”
Using the Just Jazz tapes as a guide, he mixed and remixed, overdubbed synthesizer and pulled from his extensive battery of percussion instruments. He invited his collaborators—his friends, though we should all be so lucky to have friends as talented as these—to add their own overdubs, then, working the controls, he turned out a collection of songs that seem to have entire worlds encased within them. He worked with a sense of necessity. “The urgency was to share a message,” he says, “that we would get through this.”
It’s a feeling that was made manifest across Actual Presence, and is extended in this new version, entitled Extra Presence. When I first heard these songs in 2020, I was astounded by how expertly Carlos was able to guide his listeners through a three-dimensional soundscape. It felt miraculous, as if we were getting a new view of free jazz and new age and hip-hop, being brought into the cells of the music to see how all its constituent parts fit together. The implication seemed to be that every moment of every song—not just these songs, but any song—was ripe with possibility, that decisions were being made at every moment, and that because of that, other decisions might be made. Free jazz and free improv are both predicated on this very idea, of course, but where that sense of freedom often yields dissonance and confusion, Actual Presence seemed to suggest that something like spiritual harmony could be reached on the fly, that it was hidden in everything if you were willing to try and find it.
What I didn’t hear then, but hear now, is that this sense of harmony wasn’t just coming from Carlos’ remarkable studio skills. It was inherent in the playing itself, and in the way the players relate to one another. There is an emotional coherence to this music, a collective ache at its core that starts with the majesty of Jamael Dean’s piano and runs through even the smallest of instruments. No matter who’s playing on any given track—or when they were playing it—everyone is watching one another, patiently waiting, not moving forward until everyone is ready. That could feel ponderous, but here it feels generous. You expect “Youwillgetthroughthis” to move out its foyer, but the kalimba finds an interesting groove there, so they all gather around to explore it, which gives a deeply tender organ space to open the song in a completely new direction. It’s music as a series of cleansing exhales, as re-grounding, slowing down to move at a speed that allows it to examine itself.
As its title suggests, Extra Presence gives us another hour of these explorations. The new tracks were all recorded around the time Carlos was working on Actual Presence and its followup, More Energy Fields, Current, and they show that the sense of possibility that first suggested itself in these songs wasn’t a mirage. Rather than simply remixing old tunes, Carlos opens new doors that reveal new rooms. “Youwillgetthroughthis with Koto” isn’t just augmented by a koto; it’s wound up in a new tension that was barely suggested in the original track. “Luis’ Special Shells,” an Actual Presence highlight, dips us into an subaquatic world painted in inky blues and forest greens, the shells themselves the only clear element that remains from the original.
Most strikingly, it’s capped by the 23-minute ambient piece “Recurrent Reiki Dreams,” a dramatic extension of the album’s “Mushroomeclipse.” The track’s length, and the lightly undulating silkiness of its textures, makes it feel as though the entire album has been sliding into this primordial space, as if the whole of Extra Presence is something like a symphony. Or maybe like all of those views Carlos and his friends have offered have all been different ways of saying this, variations on a way of articulating a feeling that exists here in its purest form. It’s like staring into the object with which this music has been abiding.
What I didn’t hear in 2020 but hear now, as the world has changed and continues to, is that the sound of Extra Presence is the sound of being ready to face yourself. Or, more precisely, it’s the sound of what happens when everyone pauses what they’re doing and rallies to support a wounded friend. Yes, these songs are technically dazzling, constantly surprising, and expertly constructed. But at its core, Extra Presence is about sitting down, being with, trying to draw from a sensation or a mass that’s much bigger than we can understand. Yes, this is mystical language, but this is mystical music. “It is a way of describing the awareness of Eternal Now,” Carlos says.” “It is a way of expressing the consciousness of Being.”
Produced and Mixed by Carlos Niño
Mastered by Benjamin Tierney and David Allen
Cover Art and Insert by Nep Sidhu
Design and Layout by Craig Hansen
Standard Black Vinyl Edition