originally released on 250 black vinyl LPs via Brave Mysteries
"Rain Drinkers consists of two long-time Madison folks, but yet none of us have any real contact with either of them and they have never played live. Xavier Kraal (aka Troy Schafer in one of his numerous musical disguises) has moved out to the country, withdrawing into family life and a myriad of solo projects and many collaborations )including Kinit Her, Compass Hour, Wreathes, Spiral Joy Band, Pelt, Burial Hex, Wormsblood, and many more). Joe Taylor musically focuses exclusively on Rain Drinkers and, though he has lived in the Madison area for many years now, none but Kraal have actually met him. Rain Drinkers also consistently credits the Creative Spirit as a third member of their line-up for all of their releases. Regardless of what sounds the Creative Spirit is actually contributing, both Kraal and Taylor are such talented multi-instrumentalists, it is impossible to distinguish which of them is playing what parts and, often the arrangements are so organically entangled, it becomes difficult to determine what the instrumentation might be in any given movement. Much like their amazing 2011 release Urthen Web, Yesodic Helices flows in an out of a wide variety of tone poems. Musically they bring to mind artists who tend to create their own visionary worlds with a classic sense of depth and dynamics, such as Ennio Morricone, Sun Ra, Iasos, Moondog, Popol Vuh or modern characters like Cyclobe, James Ferraro or Ulver. The essence of Rain Drinkers also clearly bears the mark of their own Xavier Kraal, who graces all his projects with an inimitable musical signature. We don't know where these sessions were recorded or how, but the band always features themselves on the cover of their releases, in various stark settings around rural Wisconsin, exposing themselves only to the excellent black and white portraiture of photographer Dani Dahlke. Their oblique gaze and anachronistic looks further plunge the imagination into mania. Luckily the music itself is not so intangible. The Rain Drinkers music is made with a heady passion that keeps them moving forward, continuously expanding their pallet of sounds and stylistic touchstones. Yet, no matter how adventurous or exciting the musical terrain may be, the listener remains safely strapped in and always guided along by a familiar and benevolent presence. This angel journeyman, alive within the music of Rain Drinkers, are surely the results of a special transmutation that occurs between these two intense and sincere old souls, and it is surely what they are acknowledging when crediting The Creative Spirit as a third unique member of their private ensemble."
"It’s always remarkable when I receive a new vinyl album. There is something timeless about the look, the feel, the extra anticipation of the music contained thereon. And on 150G black vinyl, I only hoped that the music followed the physical quality of the work’s presentation. Rain Drinkers. An American duo from the wilds of Wisconsin, these two are everything and yet nothing. With any duel attack comes dual purpose, dual arrangement, and double the pleasure (or pain). We’re certainly dealing with the former here!
It seems to me that, in this world of over-exposure and saturating over-marketing that Troy Schafer (credited on the LP as Xavier Kraal) and Joe Taylor (unknown outside of RD, it seems) would rather paint their works through subtlety and worth than in glitter and lights. But that’s just the way this music is marketed. It’s what’s INSIDE that counts. Same with this record.
Yesodic Helices is a 2 track dive into the world of experimental music that brims with beauty and unwound perfection. It seems that the two, along with their named yet invisible third, the Creative Spirit, have divided theitr time in threes, as well. One part field recordings, one part true studio, and a third part complete experimentation, they have the presence of heart and mind to bring all parts together as one sonic full.
Each side measures about 15 minutes in length. Fans of Carnivale will especially appreciate side A – Helix I. Almost an Ennio Morricone-esque track, it blends experimental country, field recordings of an abrubt and unknown nature, as well as pulsing light and dark elementsinto one huge canvas of noise within the quiet. There are so many instruments at play here, it would be quite a task to try and list them all here. Suffice it to say, these gentlemen aren’t just pressing random keys on a synthesizer. There is a degree of multi-instrumental talent here that rivals anything I’ve heard in a good long while.
Side B (or Omega) – Helix II is something from a dream, at least for me. Foreboding sounds of darkness and light play well with the pianos and other native instruments to create a sonic swell of beauty and muffled despair. There is an unknown darkness here, something welcome, but not fully explained. Bliss and warped perfection!
Overall, I find this release to be among the better ones I’ve heard this year. It speaks to me in hidden ways, and it causes me to think, to reflect, to dream. It would be true to say that my own path has become illuminated by this release. Solid."
-Asche of Heathen Harvest
"When it comes to scenery, Middle America has the absolute worst reputation. Lacking the mountains which bolster it on either side, no deserts, canyons, vast expanses of forest, nor oceanic coast, we residents of the breadbasket regularly deal with complaints of "flat, featureless land" and "endless, boring cornfields." Twentysomethings yearn for the day they get to leave this supposed hellhole, setting their idealistic sights for Colorado, California, or New York...it's almost as if they spent their entire lives blind to the beauty which surrounds them. All these folks ever really needed to do was open their eyes to their surroundings and see the beauty found in these endless rows of corn, these rolling prairies and understand that this area is just as beautiful as the mountains they hold so dear. We don't really have many musicians who glorify the space between the mountains, so when groups like Madison, Wisconsin's Rain Drinkers surface, excitement abounds.
I truly live for music like Rain Drinkers. The duo of Xavier Kraal (otherwise known as Kinit Her and Burial Hex's Troy Schafer) and the mysterious Joe Taylor, of whom apparently only Schafer knows personally, have quietly been releasing CD-R after CD-R of their own brand of engulfing sound collages, culminating in the now sold out Urthen Web cassette and Springtide CD-R, released on Brave Mysteries and Reverb Worship respectively. Early on, I kind of felt as if Rain Drinkers was one of your "dime a dozen" psychedelic folk bands, but their sound grew stronger and more unique with each new release, culminating in the mature, thoughtful Yesodic Helices. With these two tracks, titled "Helix I" and "Helix II," Schafer and Taylor take what is considered folk music (a mix of English folk, Appalachian folk, and composer Ennio Morricone's educated guess at what Western American music happened to sound like) and stripped it down to its very core, not unlike Jesy Fortino's "microfolk" approach with her Tiny Vipers and Mirroring projects. However, unlike Ms. Fortino's adherence to song structure, Rain Drinkers take folk deconstruction one step further, resulting in picturesque, almost tangible ambiance. Taylor and Schafer, both multi-instrumentalists, weave tapestries of guitar, violin, and countless other instruments, leaving brilliant images of tree-bordered fields of wheat and shaded creeks. I swear, you can even hear the water running. It sounds like home.
It takes a lot of talent to break folk music down into an atmosphere while still keeping it as engulfing and enthralling as an actual song, and Rain Drinkers definitely possess that talent. Yesodic Helices is an absolutely entrancing listen, and Brave Mysteries wholeheartedly agrees, celebrating it as their fourth vinyl release. There are only 250 copies of Yesodic Helices available, but the first 100 orders come especially with the equally as lovely Cast of the Rye Wolf handmade CD-R, released on Schafer's Shifting Sands Congregation label."
"It almost seems careless to label Yesodic Helices as drone or ambient. Rain Drinkers certainly layer a lot of sustained sonic textures throughout both sides (“Helix I” and “Helix II”) of their first vinyl release, and the patience taken in unraveling both these tracks creates a thick atmosphere. But the work Xavier Kraal (a.k.a. Troy Schafer of Kinit Her) and Joe Taylor put in here results in something much more dynamic and engaging than those descriptors might let on.
Brave Mysteries label co-owner Nathaniel Ritter described the album earlier in the year as a “careful balance between studio sessions, field recordings, and ritual improvisations.” Schafer further explained that the ambient textures sometimes work their way in through his and Taylor’s instrumental takes and sometimes they actively seek field recordings to accompany the tracks.
Put together with manipulated tape and hand-cut record loops, it all adds an incredible amount of depth to tracks that are already lushly populated by strings, horns, pianos, guitars, synths, woodwinds, and any number of the impossibly large variety of instruments Kraal and Taylor can deftly weave into Rain Drinkers’ long, complex compositions. “Helix I” plays out with less urgency than “Helix II,” letting mournful cello cascade into harmonic chants and rolling piano while moving across subtle peaks and valleys.
“Helix II,” on the other hand, takes a dramatic turn near the five-minute mark, as a slowly strummed acoustic guitar intersects with thunderstorm sounds to produce an air of menace that continues to build into a surging, subterranean beat that steadily escalates the intensity.
The components of drone and ambient obviously play a big role in these tracks, but the vastly varied cast of sounds that intertwine so beautifully upon the cinematic scope of it all make Yesodic Helices something more intriguing and engrossing than those genre tags could possibly convey."
Madison AV Club
"One of my favourite discoveries from last year, and they’re back already with their first LP release: Wisconsin’s duo Rain Drinkers. Zavier Krall (pseudonym of Troy Schafer) and Joe Taylor have put out several albums since 2010, ranging from good to breathtaking, and as I had expected and hoped, this latest one is a worthy addition to the discography.
Yesodic Helices starts with an atmosphere comparable to that of last year’s wonderful Springtide: a fine layering of drones and violin, both covering bass and high frequencies. With a few broad strokes, these men paint a vast musical canvas from which to start, suffused with mental images and tiny details of sound. After about five minutes, lovely melodies on trumpet and guitar, as well as soft chants, take over to introduce a new tonality. It’s uplifting on the one hand, but with notes of mystery and present danger as well. Rolling piano and drones continue the track from here, slowly building towards a subtle crescendo.
The second movement starts with some new low drones, faint piano, and electric guitar. A theme with soft percussion, organ, and flute develops out of this, still maintaining a rather calm vibe. Shortly after the halfway point, flute and guitar give way to a pulsating rhythm growing in intensity, and more and more instruments and sounds (percussion, deep bells) join in for the album’s final climax. This section shares some elements with the title track on Burial Hex‘s Book of Delusions from last year, which is a compliment.
Though short for an album, Yesodic Helixes feels more like a single 30-minute track, perfectly balanced and paced, and definitely on the level of the project’s best releases so far. Reviewers are at a loss when they have to pigeonhole Rain Drinkers’ music, and terms like “urfolk” get thrown around at times. This is a sure sign that some new things are happening here, and indeed you can hear influences from all over the place: folk, jazz, film music, ambient, drone, ritual, etc. Combined with an obscure spiritual imagery – what are these helices and what do they have to do with one of the sephirot? – and band image (mysterious names, unknown recording locations), and you have a great package. It must be clear I love these guys, and I can’t do anything but recommend this and their other works to all our dear readers."
Evening Of Light
"We find Wisconsin to be a media-friendly state. It’s smiling faces and happy residents make the most of isolation; it’s capital city home to a festive university and the small blue-collar town of Green Bay a pride among the state as the last surviving small market professional football team.
Yet there is isolation in Wisconsin. There are those, despite portrayals to the contrary, who retreat from the happy-go-lucky norm and find solace in singularity. They have made their peace with the civilized world, wishing to make a life in the abundance of the natural world.
Not as National Geographic or survivalist as it sounds, Yesodic Helices (released via Brave Mysteries) does embrace the root of man. The desire to be one with nature and family, with nothing to cause interference in the connection between these primal needs. Troy Schafer and Joe Taylor, together known as Rain Drinkers, embody this noble spirit.
Yesodic Helices is dark, but not of the soul. Rather, this is music for the night; when the forest is cold and quiet, when the nocturnal creatures have come out to find unsuspecting prey or to enjoy the silence of the surrounding world asleep. Comprised of two long-running pieces (“Helix I” and “Helix 2,” each occupying one side of vinyl), Yesodic Helices is the communal spirit of man and nature bowing to each other’s tendencies. The music is very industrial, even in its minimalism. It is created by the hands of man from parts appropriated from Mother Earth, but the wilderness gives her blessing throughout the cinematic album. It lends itself to the narrative, as Schafer and Taylor tap into the majesty of rural life. As the world plugs itself into the mainframe, the country retreat of Schafer and Taylor manifests itself into music that reminds us that we are of nature, not just from it.
Helix 2″ makes this fact painfully truthful. The howls, thunder, and Roland Deschain vigilance toward protecting what must need protecting; to reach The Dark Tower in cyclical metaphor. Rain Drinkers are truly open to the land around them, translating it into music that is beyond mood and mechanics. No matter the instrumentation (of which there is plenty) and the means, Yesodic Helices is of the earth. It was pulled from rich soil by the hands of two men unafraid to show the world the real Wisconsin—and more so, the real world."
"The druidic Rain Drinkers arrive with another musical work through the veins of Brave Mysteries. Their shamanistic musical adventures are always a delight, created thoughtfully and merged with, or maybe submerged in, the all engulfing sounds of nature. Although gentle and even delicate, Joe Taylor and Zavier Krall conjure a powerful and charismatic music for the two parts of ‘Yesodic Helices’
The two parts of this album can be considered as a one long (thirty minutes) track, yet Rain Drinkers go through several phases through it’s course. Solemn moments of self reflections in inner gazing are intertwined, through long, ultra low sounds of heavy strings, with tribal infused spiritual highlights. Their story is eventful and meaningful through each step they are taking on this fundamental, spiraled road.
More than anything else, Yesodic Helices is a touching album, full with different ways for Rain Drinkers’ meditative musical reflections. These musical approaches do not collide with each other, and show a holistic creation rather than a fragmented compilation. The result is touching, sensual and insightful, and you needn’t anything else, besides maybe the sharp taste of rain in your mouth."
-Oren Ben Yosef
Culture Is Not Your Friend!
"5*/5* Y’know, in all my time at Norman Records I’ve never seen a Rain Drinkers LP in the flesh. We’ve had the odd super-limited tape or CDr pass through our hallowed walls, but a vinyl record from these mysterious lads is a rare treat indeed. The sleeve bears the usual trademark timeless photography with the two of them looking mysterious in mysterious surroundings, and the record boasts two side-long pieces - ‘Helix I’ and ‘Helix II’, credited on the sleeve to Joe Taylor, Xavier Kraal and “The Creative Spirit”. Mystical. Anyway, ‘Helix I’ begins with something between violin drones and a string section tuning up, and has quite a Constellation-esque backbone of foreboding intent to the bubbling, whistling tones, but later this morphs into something more spooked and bassy that seems to revolve around low, treated piano sounds and possibly guitar drones. I love how these guys keep so much physicality and humanity in their sound - it helps keep it grounded and when it heads into dark ambient territory it saves it from the sense of helpless foreboding you can find in more electronic-based dark ambience. On the flip the paranoia really starts to spread, though, with the individual instrumental tones being much harder to recognise. It’s reminding Phil a lot of ‘Plight and Premonition’ by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay, and me of the likes of Burial Hex or Decimus. Now it’s getting a little bit Natural Snow Buildings. Ooh...there was just a bit of Dylan Carlson-esque guitar and now they’ve just brought in a pulsing beat and there’s a synth build for a trotting, head-nodding closing passage that’s got a glacial Berlin techno feel. Whenever Rain Drinkers put records out it really hits me how much of the sonic potential of organic ambient music remains untapped, as they multi-instrumentalise their way through intoxicating passages of soft, earthy murk and keep uncovering new textural surprises. Every release is a masterclass for the connoisseur of this kind of minimal ambient tone building, and this LP is no exception."
"This is another record I've been desperately been trying to write about for a while, and have not had much like conveying how I feel about it. "Otherworldly" was a word that immediately came to mind, but since the record, to me, certainly feels like it has a sense of place, that doesn't really work. The duo of Rain Drinkers hail from Madison, Wisconsin, but since the only Wisconsin places I've been to are Milwaukee and Oshkosh, I can't say for sure if the place that the record feels like is really Madison; we can probably safely assume that to be the case, but for me, as a listener, it's somewhere else. I have a place in mind, but it is a place without a name, a place that is almost (but not entirely) fictional and a figment of my imagination. When I play this record, I inevitably have the jacket in my hand, staring at it, taking it in, and picturing this place. And while I can't name the place, I can only say it feels like home.
It feels like the River Valley that I grew up in; it feels like the mountains that surrounded me; it feels like places I visited frequently in the Appalachians and Catskills, and like places I now frequent in the Adirondacks. All of these are places that my spirit calls home, but together they make up something else. And that is the place that I am transferred to when I hear this record.
Yesodic Helices is one of the most fantastically resplendent albums that I've heard, and that's part of what's made it so difficult to write about. A folk sensibility provides the foundation on which rich layers of beautiful psychedelia and soft, deep ambient textures rest. At times, the sounds can be quite ritualistic and minimal; at other times, they are up-front and rather consuming. But no matter the mix, they are always magnificent. It is intoxicating, moving and very communicative, and if you allow it be, it has the power to take the listener to a personal and far-away place."
-Hammer Smashed Sound
"Troy Schafer (known in this project under the pseudonym Xavier Kraal) and Joe Taylor have created a small universe just for themselves with their collaborative venture Rain Drinkers. Every one of RD albums features the musicians in natural surroundings, dressed in clothes that indicate no specific time or location. On “Yesodic Helices”, both the clothes and the music gives away the certain fascination with old American folk music, as well as their penchant for Eastern drones, as if entering the whole “New Weird America” scene with a cinematic sense of music, and a stronger focus on compositional themes - while many NWA musicians focused on improvisation and DIY ethic, Rain Drinkers appear very careful and meticulous with creating the sounds.
On “Yesodic Helices”, the duo’s debut LP, many may find similarities to the soundtrack for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” by Warren Ellis and Nick Cave. What immediately strikes the listener, is the richnes of melodies, textures and sounds packed on two side-length compositions, and, most importantly, the number of instruments played by the two. By their sheer multi-instrumental ability and cinematic atmosphere they set themselves far apart from the other drone artists, who usually rely on one-two instruments in the process (save for Sean McCann, who makes his sound just as rich and exquisite). What is Rain Drinkers’ forte however, is their integrity and ability to keep the track droning and psychedelic while remaining disciplined and not straying away from the main themes.
Images of old, forgotten America with its often harsh nature, beautiful surroundings and difficult life on the frontier are recurring themes of Rain Drinkers’ music, on their debut LP those themes are more pronounced than ever. Sombre, distant acousitc guitar strumming connects with a vaguely southern sounding funeral trumpet, while the reverbed and often heavy drones add a ghostly, melancholic feel to the whole experience. While side A’s “Helix I” is the homage to the pale-skinned pioneers doing their best to merely survive and make a living on the endless prairies of the great American plains, “Helix II” is more spiritual, owing much to the traditions and beliefs of the Native American inhabitants. It’s quieter, less melodic and cohesive, more focused on the ritual flutes and otherwordly atmosphere instead. If side A is the “White” side, then side B is the “Indian” side."