Zen Rat started out as Labrathisattva, with its first album released on the now-legacy Earth Mantra Netlabel as a 256K MP3 free download (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND). The following information was provided on the official album page for The View From Down Here on Earth Mantra Netlabel:
In June of 2007 and July/August of 2008, Mike Metlay (of Metlay!, mindSpiral, and Team Metlay) and Darrell Burgan (of Palancar, Copal River, and Cluster Balm) collaborated on a series of long-distance musical explorations, which quickly took on a strong and distinctive character that led them to consider forming a duet project that would stand on its own.
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After many discussions (some serious, most not so much) they decided upon a delightful metaphor for their musical lives, that of two lab rats who'd been experimented on to the point where they spontaneously reached Nirvana from within their cages. Lab rats turned bodhisattvas: labrathisattva.
Interestingly, this album was recorded in real time, but with the artists nearly a thousand miles apart. A variety of technologies were used to facilitate these long distance jam sessions.
The first collaboration, from June 2007, consisted of Mike performing a solo piece and Darrell adding to it in real time -- Mike couldn't hear what Darrell was doing, and Darrell could only add to Mike's work without changing it. This became the piece "A World Beneath The World".
The second collaboration, from July 2008, reversed the order, with Darrell's solo improvisation serving as a base for Mike's additions, and became "The Cave Of The Homunculi".
The third and last piece of the puzzle was a long improvisational session using the NINJAM audio collaboration software, in August of 2008; recordings of this extensive session were cut apart based on cohesive themes, and six of the best passages became the remainder of this first labrathisattva release.
Since the release of The View From Down Here, Darrell and Mike have continued chronicling the journey of Smoke and Spark, the two enlightened lab rats, in other releases -- their second album, To The Heights, is now available on the revitalized earthMANTRA label. Another important change: since no one could pronounce Spark's clever name Labrathisattva (not even Smoke), they changed the project name to Zen Rat, and celebrated the new name with a re-release of the first album (with added tracks) as A World Beneath The World.
It's unclear where Smoke and Spark will take us in their quest for truth, peace, and a good mix of incense and electroshock. But for now, they hope you'll enjoy these subterranean explorations by a pair of unlikely pilgrims, searching for the ultimate sonic truth.
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