Inner Islands 

SLC label is the punk-rock New Age

click to enlarge Inner Islands' Braden McKenna
  • Inner Islands' Braden McKenna

His friend spent a few hours on the outer rings of Saturn, but Braden McKenna won’t describe the landscape he was transported to after ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms while listening to Free Magick.

The droning, rhythmically meditative three tracks—“Ocean Wind,” “Forest Light” and “Dragon’s Garden”—clock in at just over 40 minutes, and “represent places, psychically or energetically. More specifically, it’s like zones that, if you’re in the right state, you can hang out in,” McKenna says of his 2011 release.

“[Free Magick] is a true reflection of my inner journey and a statement to the magick of mystery,” McKenna wrote in the album’s liner notes. Basically, he used to eat a lot of ’shrooms.

The album was recorded as Wyld Wyzrdz, McKenna’s music-making namesake that marked a time—2008 to 2011—when he left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he was heavily involved, he says, and the pendulum swung in an equal and opposite direction.

McKenna initially released his laptop-made music on his first label, Magic Goat Music, but the label’s sensibility was “all over the place.” With his ego-melting, mind-bending experiments in 2010, his aesthetic changed. So, he launched Inner Islands to reflect a more “honed-in” vision.

Inner Islands sells vinyl, cassette tapes and MP3s for roughly six different artists, all of which have what could be labeled an esoteric and/or a New Age-y vibe. McKenna hesitantly labels it “peace vibe music”—but he also exercises caution in defining much of his music. About half of the Inner Islands artists are based in Salt Lake City—Stag Hare, Silver Antlers and McKenna—with others scattered in Florida and Portland, Ore. The collective aesthetic is something like this: a drone throughout a track, with a combination of organic and synthetic sounds that are often looped for a repetitive, meditative sonic landscape; some songs have field-recorded nature sounds.

The label’s name is a direct reference to Antelope Island. “For me, it’s a very special place,” McKenna says, adding that after he came back from his LDS mission and left the church, this is where he “first ate a lot of mushrooms and had some pretty profound psychic experiences.”

“But my experience is solely mine. Everyone is kind of like an island, “ McKenna adds. “I like to leave a lot of space in the music and allow the listener to fill in the gaps and create their own experience.”

Wyld Wyzrdz released two albums after Free Magick, including From a Stone, which is more about human interactions and emotions—“if Free Magick is a place, these are more like the inhabitants of it,” McKenna says. And Acceptance, which was made without drugs, and was the culmination of Wyld Wyzrdz.

The wizards have been set free, McKenna says.

His new musical nom de plume is Kaliska, and it marks his current abstinence from drugs. On that note, it’s certainly not necessary to do drugs to enjoy Inner Islands’ catalog, although McKenna does consider the stoner or tripper when creating music.

Initially, Wyld Wyzrdz music was hyper-spiritual for McKenna—which he doesn’t intend to portray to the listener—because that was the framework he came from. But this new Kaliska project is more “survival truth.” “Kaliska” directly translates to “coyote chasing deer,” an image alluding to McKenna’s current “everything is equal and right” view of life: “All that we’re all really doing is trying to survive,” he says.

“Inner Islands is like the punk-rock version of New Age. I’m not trying to enlighten anybody, that’s not my intention, nor do I really believe in that concept, per se,” McKenna says.

At least, Wyld Wyzrdz had a glamorous view on beauty (the light) of exploring the mystery. Kaliska, however, has a deeper acknowledgement of the darkness to exploring the psyche. It’s simple music, with deliberate, trance-inducing layers of hand drums, flutes, etc. but nothing in particular is flashy. Kaliska’s first release, The Path We Make, was released in April on BandCamp.

“But it’s all still made with love and comes from a loving place,” McKenna says. “That’s what I think people need.”

Twitter: @AustenDiamond

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