Bye Bye, Bengal

After a decade +, Swimming in Bengal is calling it a day. No big fist fight over the mountains of royalty cash the band has made, or anything like that. We just felt that we had run our course, musically. We are still making music in our other groups, but our last appearance as Swimming in Bengal will be on Valentines Day at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento. (see poster above)

I am grateful to Tony for asking me to start this band and push me into the improvised zone and challenge me. Finally being in a band with old buddy, Rusi, has also been a gift. Playing with our first percussionist, Alex Jenkins, was a thrill, not to mention all of the wonderful guest players who collaborated with us for shows and recordings. A big hug to all of you.

Thanks to the folks who released out music – Baggage Claim Records, Lugubrious Audio, J&C Tapes, and Gold Lion Records. Because of Covid, we only played a couple of shows since our ensemble recording, Collective Elephant. Please check it out, along with the other discography links below. We have some other stuff recorded that we may or may not release. We’ll see. Thank you.

Volume I on Lather Records (2014)
Insomnia Village on J&C Tapes (2015)
Ashes For Gwynn (Live) on Lather Records (2015)
Garden of Idle Hands on Baggage Claim (vinyl LP) & Lugubrious Audio (cassette) (2016)
Deeper Deeper on Lather Records (CD) and Lugubrious Audio (cassette) (2018)
Collective Elephant on Lather Records (2019)
Hot Gold Lion Nights Gold Lion Records (2021)

Compilation Tracks
“The Twisted Manzanita” – J&C SamplerJ&C Tapes
“Choking on the Ashes” – Devil’s Triangle: Vol 21KFJC

Photo by Russ Tucker

Official Swimming in Bengal Home

Collective Elephant Review at Underscore

Garden of Idle Hands Review at Raven Sings the Blues

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Summer 2021 Update

I actually started to write a “new year” post in December, but felt too unsettled with all the Covid and idiotic civil war fantasy stuff going on. Plus, exhausted. I began to feel a little better when I got my second jab in March and no one had yet managed to drive a diarehea-fueled Dodge Ram through the White House. So yeah, feeling less unsettled!


We haven’t played out since the pandemic, but we released the full-length Emotional Crevasse last fall. Read the back story here. The album received some nice words from The Fragmented Flaneur, Dusted, and Daggerzine. LP, CD, and download versions are available straight from Lather Records or from Revolver USA. There is also a new SanKaz t-shirt available for you to wear during the hottest summer ever (until 2022). About a year ago, our friend Dennis Michaels, did a video short on me discussing music during Covid closures. Check it out HERE.

Besides the occasional backyard practice, the band managed to contribute to a couple of fundraisers. First, we did a drone set for The Library of MusicLandria’s annual Big Day of Giving event. Video below. Occasional San Kaz collaborator, Ethan Port, grafted together a soundscape from a “Bay players” session to contribute to Oakland’s girl empowerment organization, Radical Monarchs. Link is below. These are both great groups and I hope you would consider donating a little $$ to them. Also, note the outside San Kazakgascar dates at the top of the page!

Emotional Crevasse LP, CD, download at Lather Records. Or iTunes.

San Kaz t-shirt at Lather Records

San Kazakgascar official site


Swimming in Bengal at the Makeout Room in San Francisco, Nov 2019, the last date before Covid. Photo by Shawn O’Leary.

Swimming in Bengal had a quiet Covid hibernation, but is starting to stir again. We are starting work on a new album this summer and will be playing an outside show in Berkeley on August 14 at Highwire Coffee @3pm. Gold Lion Arts will be releasing a live recording we did at the Gold Lion Fest a couple of summers ago. It is a digital-only and becomes available on August 13. In the meantime, please check out the 8-member, Collective Elephant, recording we released 2 years ago.

Review of the Collective Elephant at Underscore.

There’s More!

Our friends Cloud Seeder recently released their new recording, The Sea of Alexander von Humboldt. Go to their homepage to get the CD or download. If you were a fan of 90s band, Acme Rocket Quartet, then you’re in luck, because it’s most of the same guys. Cloud Seeder is a more improvised, exploratory direction. Less cocktail, more Czukay.

Joel Goulet’s new film, The Golden Bouzouki, will be screened at three northern California one-offs – Sacramento, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz. Check his site for dates and ticket info. If you’ve been waiting your whole life to watch a movie that combines the best elements of the Greek myth/fantasy genre and Elvis film, then throw your mask back on and come get it. Yours truly sneaked in as a Laconian warrior extra in the battle scene. Watch the trailer here.

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San Kazakgascar – Emotional Crevasse

The new San Kazakgascar album didn’t come together in the way it typically might. We had some song skeletons that we had been doing loose improvised versions of with different players in different cities, a couple of older songs we wanted to improve on, and some brand new stuff. In late 2019, things seemed scattered, Kaz-wise, until I discovered that there was a really good drummer living down the street from me. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m finally beginning to learn that sometimes you have to actually wait for the right people and the right time. And then strike!

 We began recording Emotional Crevasse in January 2020, not knowing how much more of an emotional crevasse we would find ourselves in a few months later.  Ninety-five percent of the album was recorded and in the can before covid-lockdown commenced.  Anchored by guitarist Jed Brewer, bassist Greg Hain, and new drummer Anthony Occipinti, the album also features contributions from clarinetist Rachel Freund, flute/hulusi- player Linda Michelle Hardy, keyboardist Matthew Kretzman, saxophonist Chris Hall, cellist Colleen T. Kelly, bass clarinetist James Jaroba Barnes, vocalist Christine Shields, and a dash of throat-singing from Arrington de Dionyso.  The album was recorded and mixed by Greg Hain.

Greg, Matt, Chris, & Rachel in the recording crevasse – Jan. 2020.

Emotional Crevasse is all over the place.  There are the characteristic Kazakgascar quasi-Middle Eastern psych riffs, but also some quiet acoustic bits, and some long tones/drones.  Even a couple of peppy numbers.  An emotional roller coaster?  Some of the album’s songs like “The Thirsty West”, “The Emerald Triangle”, and the title cut were the product of pieces that had been mostly improvised in live settings over the previous year, before landing in their finished form on the album.  The supporting cast really brought the songs to life and I feel really fucking lucky that they all stepped in to contribute. And Hain…. Hain! He keeps getting better at this whole recording/mixing game.

Emotional Crevasse is available on vinyl LP, compact disc, and of course, the digital super highway. I hope this missive finds you well, or well enough for now. Who knows how things will look and feel in 2021? The thing I will remember most about putting this album together is how everything fell in place for a brief moment and then froze.

Order an LP, CD, or download Emotional Crevasse at Lather Records Bandcamp.

Emotional Crevasse on iTunes.

San Kazakgascar homepage

San Kazakgascar on Facebook

Lather Records digital footprint on Twitter, Soundcloud, & YouTube.

OK, out this Fall, actually..

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Helter Shelter


Ben Chasny/Six Organs of Admittance – Photo by Elisa Ambrogio


Teaching a class remotely and keeping your own kid somewhat focused on her school work while everyone is anxious, uncertain, depressed, and unmotivated feels like a slow-motion meltdown on some days.  That said, I’ve got it pretty good.  I have job security.  Creatively, I’ve swung back and forth between brief moments of lightning and much longer stretches of hollow, who knows what?  In talking with other musicians/artists I’ve observed quite a spectrum of these extremes.  I was curious how full-time musicians were rolling with covid-quarantine.  So I asked some.

Ben Chasny recently released a new Six Organs of Admittance album called Companion Rises on Drag City Records, and was gearing up for a spring tour of the US.  The tour was to be a substantial part of his 2020 income until the cancellation dominoes starting falling in March.  Into the “hermit hut” he went.

“I’ve recorded more over the last couple months than I have in a long time. For me it’s a time to finish some projects I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish because of a tour. I’m not saying everything I’ve done is amazing. But I am trying to work every day. Yes, I am stressed about the world but I just can’t afford not to work right now. I have to. So I am. But yeah, I lost a lot of money. So that stress is manifesting into trying to just record and write. I’m working on another Library record for KPM. I did one last year. So I feel pretty lucky to be able to do that.” Ben added, “Financially I’ve been helped a lot by Bandcamp. They are pretty much the only entity that actually cares about musicians these days. They also happen to be where I learn a lot about new music. Man, I can’t say enough good things about them.”




Christine Shields shelter in place mothership.

I was impressed with how determined and focused Ben’s adaptation to the lost tour was.  I also could relate to Sacramento-based painter/songwriter Christine Shields‘ reflective response:

“For the first month it was very difficult to focus and I hardly painted but did manage to record a song. When I WAS able to focus on the song or anything else. I felt a lot of relief. I put quite a bit of effort into getting my home and food situation together, getting my ducks in a row. Meanwhile the deep dive I was taking was and is very internal, and is only, more lately, starting to bear more fruits in terms of manifesting creative output. I feel like it’s such a deep dive that I don’t even understand the extent of how it will change me, or how this species-wide experience will change us all. I endeavor to stay present and take things as they come and take good care of myself, because a lot of the stuff that comes up is from such a deep dark place that it’s scary. Like those strange creatures that live in the depths of the ocean that we know very little about. So it’s like I have to support myself while I take this journey. I feel like there is a bigger plan, a longer vision that this experience is setting up, and the only way to navigate it is by intuition and being really present. That takes a lot of energy. At this point I feel a transition into making more work, or bringing the work from inside myself into the physical world, but I’m working on feeling balanced and gentle about it so that it happens organically. I feel like one of the things we are learning about as a culture is how the constant  pressure to produce, to “work”, is killing us on many levels, and there is a re-assessment of what really needs to come out of us. What is really important? What are we here to do? It’s such a personal question for each of us. As artists, musicians, creative people, we inhabit an interesting place in all this, as we tend to navigate this hazy zone between imagination and commodity.”





Sameer Gupta


Percussionist Sameer Gupta of Brooklyn Raga Massive acknowledges the challenges of his situation, especially with kids at home, but is trying to adapt and keep things moving:

“The pandemic has had its pluses and minuses for me. It’s a lot more work at the house with both kids and my spouse at home and we both have to work around each other’s schedules. I’ve been able to keep a minimal practice schedule, but really my focused hours of creative development have been reduced. But I’ve been cooking a lot more, which helps the creativity of my music.  I also have been struggling with trying to find the sustainable model for my music work with the recent cancellations. I’ve started a Patreon page which I am very excited about and I hope people will see the value of supporting artists directly. It’s also been necessary to buy more gear to support the needs for live streaming…and that is something that hits the finances unexpectedly.”



For Brooklyn-based Jeff Tobias of Sunwatchers and Modern Nature, shelter in place has had a whole other layer to it:

“About two weeks after I returned home from my abbreviated tour (of Europe) with Modern Nature, I started feeling symptoms that corresponded with those of COVID-19. That was nearly two months ago, and I haven’t fully recovered. I am presently taking medication under the advisement of an ear/nose/throat specialist that he prescribed for a sinus inflammation stemming from the coronavirus infection. This has led to a near-complete pause on my creative work. Without the full health of my respiratory system, I feel totally disinclined to work on music, because I think it would be too disappointing to feel like I couldn’t reach for a horn whenever I want. I am waiting until I have made a full recovery to work on music. When the time comes, I have an album of solo music that I’ve been working on for a long time that I hope to wrap up by mid-summer. Having said that, on top of my own health problems, I have been struggling to countenance being creative generally with the encroaching collapse of the United States in the background.”


Jeff Tobias w/Sunwatchers.



Artist links:

Six Organs of Admittance

Christine Shields

Sameer Gupta


Free Lather Records Lockdown Sampler


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Winter 2020 Updates


Hello friends.  Here is the latest from your gray-wave friends in the world of obscure music:


We have some good developments in the Peoples Republic of Kazakgascar.  I have just released a super-duper limited-edition lathe-cut 7″ (check that bloody art above, bloke).  “Scar Tissue” b/w “Ghost Malls” is culled from a Jed Brewer/Jeff Tobias duo set.  I did a lot of different collaborations this past year, and this is a little document of one of them. Jeff is with the band Sunwatchers.  There is a download option, as well.

But that’s not all.  We are currently working on a new album with brand new drummer Anthony Occipinti and a full crew of players that includes Linda Hardy, Rachel Freund, Matt Kretzman, Chris Hall, Colleen Kelly, Jaroba James, and of course, Greg and Jed.  Lots of peaks and valleys happening on it and we look forward to slinging it out to the world in late spring.  Working album title is Emotional Crevasse.




Recording such an emotional crevasse.



Bengal has a couple of upcoming shows that will include a wide assortment of guest players, just like on their latest recording Collective Elephant.  Dates and stuff:

Mar. 15 – Winters at The Palms Playhouse

Apr. 18 – Davis at UC Davis Picnic Day



Sean and Todd have an acoustic group called Cycle of Birds.  Sean recently told us that he had a batch of songs that were more suited for Harvester, so we got together and started working on them.  We have no predictions on when a new recording might materialize, but it’s exciting to have some new music to work on.  There might be a few live dates in the next year.  We’ll see.  A couple of months ago, I put most of the Harvester catalog up on Bandcamp for your downloading delight.  Fill up your phone with some of your long- lost favorite Harvester nugs.


Harvester Bandcamp



Shopping Sean.


The bonkers Bafus/Brewer/Raskin lathe-cut 12″ is sold out, but you can get the digital version here.

In January, I was honored to be included in the big SMF Gathering improvisation ensemble’s fundraiser for the Sacramento Children’s Home.  Check it out below:




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November Updates


Hello there – just a quick update on a hodge podge of thingies.  Swimming in Bengal is playing the Makeout Room in San Francisco on Nov. 25.  It’s our first date since releasing Collective Elephant.  You can read the backstory on the recent album here.  It has received some nice reviews from Underscore, The Fragmented Flaneur, Record Crates United, and Snooping the Bandcamp.


Another recent release is the bonkers 12″ lathe recording with Jon Bafus and Jon Raskin.  The super limited edition records are gone, but you can still get the less sexy, yet functional download at Bandcamp.




I have been wanting to try and do a true San Kazakgascar drone piece.  I recently asked some friends to join me for this effort and found a nice frequency of “A” to burrow into.  You know it’s going to be a fun set when the guest drummer lugs a half-stack onto stage so he can also hold down a drone note on a keyboard.  I’m interested in trying to expand on this.


SKazagascar 10-14-19-33

Photo by Dennis Scott



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Fall in Kazakgascar


San Kazakgascar has a couple of upcoming dates to share.  We are playing at a new spot in Sacramento called Dwellpoint on Oct. 14 with PAK (rare Sac visit) and Gentleman Surfer.  I’ll have Rachel Freund, Linda Michelle Hardy, Matt Kretzman, and Robert Rivasplata joining me for this one.  More info at Facebook.

On Nov. 1, my Bay-based collaborators will be joining in for a set at Little Boxes Theater in San Francisco as part of the How to Destroy the Universe 7, which is put on by the folks at Mobilization.  It is a benefit for safer DIY spaces.  Joining in on this set will be Ethan Port, Sheila Bosco, Brian Lucas, and Kris Force.  More info.


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Swimming in Bengal – Collective Elephant



For the last few years Tony Passarell has been talking about recording an album with a stacked line-up of guest players.  We finally got around to just that.  Joining Passarell (saxophone/percussion) and core members Jed Brewer (gourd guitar) and Rusi Gustafson (percussion) were Amy Reed (voice, percussion), Keith Cary (cello, effects), Heath Poskin (acoustic bass), Linda Michelle Hardy (Native American flutes, whistles, hulusi, percussion), and Alan Ernst (harmonium, flute). We had a blast and Greg Hain beautifully recorded and mixed the improvisations.


For several reasons this recording is extra special for us.  We’re proud of how it came out and want to share it far and wide.  This is the only Swimming in Bengal release that is currently available on iTunes, Apple, Spotify, etc.  If you prefer downloading, we urge you to go through our Bandcamp site.  Ye olde compact discs are available at Lather Records.



Get the Elephant Collective CD or download at Bengal’s Bandcamp

Get Elephant Collective at iTunes

Copies of the Garden of Idle Hands vinyl LP can still be had at Baggage Claim Records

Swimming in Bengal official site.



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Hot Kazakgascar Nights


As you all know, I try to pack in more music mischief during my summers off.  The above poster shows where I’ll be playing this summer.  San Kazakgascar has become more of a free-flowing collective of players and I actually had to make a Google doc just to keep track of who was playing with me at each date.  I’m excited about all the different people who have agreed to get noisy with me.  I’m making more of an effort to play with women again and have found some willing souls in Rachel Freund, Amy Reed, Shiela Bosco, and Colleen Kelly.  Also in the mix are some dudes I really admire  – Jeff Tobias (of Sunwatchers) and Ethan Port (of Savage Republic).

Speaking of Ethan Port, we recently started a new group together along with Shiela Bosco and Brian Lucas.  It’s in the very early stages, but so far it’s clicking nicely.  More on that later.  This summer we’re also going to release the new Swimming in Bengal recording that we did with five other guest musicians.  Greg Hain really did a great job and capturing our improvisations and mixing it.  Stay tuned!
Another recording that I’m going to get out to the universe is a wacko duo session I did with drummer Jon Bafus.  I’m going to dabble in the world of lathe-cut records on this.  You’ve been warned.

San Kazakgascar and Swimming in Bengal recordings are available at : Lather Records Bandcamp


All of my shows are electric this summer, but here is an acoustic clip from last August at the Community Forest in Arcata:

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Swimming in Bengal – May 10 & June 8



After a few months of laying low, Swimming in Bengal comes up to the surface for some spring air.  Allergies are great.  We are joining forces with our freaky buds Art Lessing & The Flower Vato on Friday, May 10, at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento.  Linda Hardy will be sitting in with us.  More details at Facebook.  A month later, on June 8, we’re sitting in traffic on the causeway to play with our Oakland buds Grex at Armadillo Music in Davis.

A couple of months ago Swimming in Bengal recorded a session with an ensemble that featured five other players, in addition to the core three.  We’re excited to get this beast mixed and out to the world!



Some of the Bengal ensemble players: Hardy, Ernst, & Reed.  Picture by Greg Hain




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