By his own admission, Philadelphia producer and visual artist Adrian Palashevsky, aka goldenSpiral, eased his way into 2019. “The first couple weeks of this year I’ve spent decompressing,” says Palashevsky. “My New Year’s resolution was to start painting… so that’s what I’ve been working on for fun. It’s been a refreshing departure from all the digital stuff.”
Since then, goldenSpiral—known for his fusion of electronic music and hip-hop with live instruments—has been creating. He’s been working on the follow-up to 2018’s Cosmic Servant with a 4-track EP called intuitively Vibes by Design. Slated for a spring release, the track list is open to interpretation, with a common thread of cerebral, worldly compositions referencing collective events with sound. The EP is heavy yet airy, full of atmospheric space, leaving the listener to move to their own devices—in a sense, speaking to each person, yet belonging to everyone. A positive thing in these divisive times.
Who is goldenSpiral? How did you come to be, and how would you describe what you do?
I think the real question is what is goldenSpiral. The Golden Spiral is a visual representation of the “Golden Ratio”—the Greek number Phi—which is basically like a divine mathematical proportion encoded in our reality. Music and art have always been my way of paying tribute to things much bigger and more important than me, and that’s what it’s all about. The sound is real high vibes. It’s like an international dub system in the sky. It goes deep and when it’s live it makes people come alive in some pretty amazing ways. It’s inspiring to watch. So that’s what I do, I love it. It’s not just me, though. I’ve got my saxophone-slash-electronic wind instrument player, Dan Keller, and extended collective family beside me. Everyone is killing it, too.
This past winter you had a gig at Chapel of Sacred Mirrors with fellow Philly outfit Agent Zero. Please tell us about that, and what it was like to work with artist Alex Grey (Tool, Beastie Boys, Nirvana).
It was an amazing, full-circle experience in so many ways. I’ve been in love with Alex’s work since high school, listening to Tool religiously. His artwork shaped how I saw the world from early on, so getting that endorsement and being an honored guest in his home was a dream come true. Not just Alex… but everyone at CoSM was so accommodating and beautiful. Philly was definitely in the building that night too, it was a privilege to rep our city like that. We were invited for brunch at their home the next morning and that’s when I had a chance to really talk to him. He’s super unassuming and wise. We ended up smoking a joint, eating some quiche, and discussing the new paintings he’s been working on for a while. It felt natural, but it was also very surreal.
Your latest album, Cosmic Servant, is a snapshot of the evolution in your sound. Tell us about the album title and what you were going for with your tracks. Any favorites here?
The album name refers to how I see myself as an artist. In light of the Universe and the Source I can only be a servant, and that’s fine with me. I know my role, so I play it, while doing my best to keep ego out the way of the creative process. Ego can hold a song back from its full potential sometimes, especially when all the best ideas seem to come from somewhere else…. However, my favorite track on the record is “Eraserhead,” which probably has more ego than all the other tracks combined [laughs]. I’m literally rapping on it, swaggin’ out the entire time. But what can I say? I’m only human, and dope is dope.
The song “Full-Length Light” is also a favorite of mine. It’s hard to describe what or how but something in that track goes way deeper than usual. I feel it more than hear it, if that makes sense. Performing it live is always off the charts, too. It has these huge improvisational sections that turn up like you wouldn’t believe compared to the album version.
It was released via CosmicAwakening, with a dual-album release party with Agent Zero at Johnny Brenda’s last May. I was there—so much fun! How did that night go for you?
So glad you were there! Everything came together perfectly. The response was huge. I love the layout and sound system in there, they’ve really got it figured out. Noah (Selwyn, Agent Zero) is also my roommate and one of my closest friends. The release was only a few weeks after we moved into our new Fishtown spot together and it set things off proper. We’ve been winning since. The creative energy around here these days is crazy.
How does this sort of event fit into the local Philadelphia art scene? What is it about Philly that breeds such a DIY sensibility and community?
Philly is the city of brotherly love, but it can be tough love sometimes. Our music scene in general already knows what it likes and what it doesn’t. Just like with our sports fans, if people like what you’re doing then they’re super passionate and supportive and it’s a beautiful thing. If they’re not feeling it then, well… it can be challenging. Anyone experiencing that shouldn’t be discouraged, though. This scene is made of real people with real communities that nurture creativity in all kinds of ways. Coming up takes time, but once you’ve lived here long enough and you’ve become part of the culture, you learn what people like and factor it in. The trick is to carve out your own style in the process because, at the end of the day, Philly is about originality and not giving a fuck above all else. So, you just maintain that balance and own it. As for the DIY sensibility, I think it comes in part from our proximity to NYC. We’re close enough to garner attention, but too far to have any real support from their “industry,” or whatever. So, we do our own thing and support each other, and prefer it that way.
You are currently finishing up work on a new album, tentatively titled Vibes by Design, which features a concise, yet diverse deck of tracks peppered with allusions for song titles. What are you saying with this one?
I just want people to hear what I’m hearing, it’s not really about what I’m trying to say. With this record I’m diving deeper into these abstract waters I’ve been exploring. The feels and vibes I’m tapping into are the real subject matter, and that stuff goes beyond words. The album art, which is a collab between Montreal-based artist Sumapano on linework and me on color and design, demonstrates that idea perfectly. What I love about his work is his ability to convey so much with so little. Super visionary stuff.
Vibes by Design cover art (courtesy of Sumapano & Adrian Palashevsky)
There’s one song of particular importance to me that has a message that is more defined, though. It’s called “Babylon Bells,” and making it helped me process and live with some unspeakable things I’ve learned about that are happening in the world… things I can’t un-see. It’s torture feeling helpless about stuff like that. Sometimes all we can do to see clearly, and cope, is forgive. The song’s in C major, which I’ve never done before. My music is always in minor, more dissonant keys, sometimes in non-western scales. But this one’s much different. It has this effortlessly beautiful flute part and these big fanfare chords packing vast amounts of air with them. Literally, it’s like there’s a fan in my speakers that turns on while I’m working on it. It’s very refreshing.
You’ve mentioned that you are shopping for a label for the release, but being an unsigned artist must have its pros. Perhaps the freedom to leverage your content in a way that might be more controlled otherwise?
Of course, independence has its pros but keep in mind, I’m not exactly shopping for major labels or anything. I know about that life and I’m not interested. But a dope indie label that’ll help grow my audience while I focus on making music and doing shows? That’s a different story. I’m not really concerned about being controlled because, first off, my radar for that sort of thing is surgical. Secondly, if an indie label is going to sign me then chances are they’ve got an ear for genre-bending, tastemaker-type stuff anyway. So, they’re probably not the type to be interfering much with creative control, just aiding it. We’ll see, though. If an offer isn’t right, that’s fine. I’ve got no problem saying no and I understand my worth. Besides, I’m quite content doing my own thing with the support of my team, my friends, my fans, and my city.