Hand to Eye to Land to Sky

Shayne Ehman on Art, the Spoken Word, and Taking a Leap Into the Void

Story by Robin Moss, Photos by Adrian Lysenko

This month, Alberta-born multidisciplinary artist and musician Shayne Ehman is set to release Hand to Eye to Land to Sky, a self-produced spoken word album dealing with such otherworldly themes as extraterrestrial life, dreams, and the subconscious.

ShayneConceived as a companion piece to Ehman’s similarly titled exhibition that opened at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery last fall, the record came about as joint venture with Nadia Kurd, curator at the gallery. Complied over a period of two months and recorded solely by Ehman in his basement studio over a period of two years, the record is a mesmerizing, ethereal soundscape that takes the listener on a journey into the mind of a man who’s not afraid to contemplate the big questions.

“The concepts are abstract but there are themes,” says the soft-spoken Ehman. “An ongoing theme in it is sort of addressing extraterrestrial life. Intelligent consciousness that’s not human-centric is very real. And where does earth end, where does the intelligence of the universe start and where does it end?”

At times it seems as though Ehman himself is struggling to articulate the thought process and inspiration behind the album, which is understandable given that this is a work of art, a sound collage not perhaps intended to be understood but rather felt and experienced.

“I think it’s safe to say it’s abstract,” says Ehman. “It’s mainly experimental and dream-based spoken word work. It’s focusing on exploring consciousness and sort of like loopholes in language. It’s playful. Sometimes it might seem absurd and other times it might seem very serious and on point in terms of consciousness and perceptions…it’s all over the map really. It was very fun to make.”

Recorded, as the sleeve notes state, using “unusual spoken word, field recordings, guitar, Juno 60, sequential circuits, six trak + ?,” the “songs” on Hand to Eye to Land to Sky are sparse and fleeting, some barely breaking the 10 second mark, few surpassing two minutes, like half-remembered dream sequences that fade and dissipate upon waking. On “The Crude Magic of Pills,” one of the record’s longer tracks, the words spill forth like a nonsensical stream of consciousness. “Dymaxion mazzocchio mojo dragonfly and opium beard fragments suction ball hut to psychocube orchid mirror,” intones Ehman in a semi-whispered and sonically warped voice. To the casual observer this may appear to be a meaningless brain dump but as the piece pulls you in the syllables, the alliteration and word combinations create mesmerizing rhythmic phrases.

“Exploration is an important part of it,” explains Ehman. “I didn’t have hard rules for what would appear on the record but i really wanted the intention that every idea would be something original, something that I could not find a source for elsewhere.”

Hand to Eye to Land to Sky is slated for a limited run of 222 copies and will be available for purchase through the Thunder Bay Art Gallery website (theag.ca).