Set, Setting, Tuneage: Greentea Peng: MAN MADE

Set, Setting, Tuneage seeks to share the experience of listening to music in our lives rather than the thinking of music in our minds.

(T + 0:00) Greentea Peng: MAN MADEAudial61:00

I wasn’t going to get outside Sunday. It was 97 degrees and rising, that natural Rocky Mountain smog had settled nicely and smoke from nearby fires had been streaming in over the last couple days. Add that to this draining week I had spent outside working and I was toasted. It was my day of rest and I needed something to pair nicely with it, a Long Island Iced Tea to sip as I lounged in my metaphysical cabana. 

Didn’t have an LIT but I did have some fresh weed cookies and my apartment was as good a place as any to lighten my spiritual load, with all of the colors, chotskies and literary knick-knacks that were hung on walls and lying on shelves. What would tie this whole relaxation station together would be the sonic stylings of Greentea Peng and her longform groove player Man Made. The cover of the album is a light psychedelic swirl of vibrations, mushrooms and a tatted-up Peng at its center, Madam Third Eye, powerful and curious. Perfect. 

It was early in the afternoon and there was plenty of time to get lost in the colorful nothing of my apartment, so I decided to double up my usual dosage of weed cookie and ate practically the whole thing. About an hour or so and two beers later the weed had mellowed my inhibitions and I was ready to wallow in Peng’s healing sounds. I lay on my carpet, boosted a bowl, lit some nag champa incense and pressed play. 

The temperature read “Chill, man” as Peng’s aura entered the room like a deity (T + 0:00), declaring “This is for the collective, not the culture.” The bass was deep and mysterious wading in cool, undulating waves of synths and piano, the drums skittering in lazy time. Peng’s voice reigned supreme as she spit a poetic manifesto about who this album was for and what it was about. It was as if the arid sun was being blotted out by this big, billowing cloud of Seng Seng righteousness that was about to rain down some psilocybic soul, freeform trip-hop and wavy reggae like a flash flood in a barren desert, springing forth an impermanent mini-ecosystem of vibes in its wake. 

I was flung into the groovy heat of “This Sound,” a quick funk number that punches through the haze with the rhythm section from Peng’s seven-piece house band Seng Seng Family, my full stink face bopping to the snap of the snare (T + 3:32). This sound had moved me to my feet as I could no longer lay on the ground to this groove, searching for the underutilized ways I could appreciate my apartment. 

Found it in a putter and cup for a nice round of apartment putt putt golf. I don’t care about golf but I do like the simplicity of trying to hit a ball into a cup and my carpet provides a perfect green-like texture. Table legs, plants, corners and a Scrabble board turned-ramp were all instruments of challenge as I hit the links around my apartment, dancing like some Voodoo mystic at the 16th hole when the beat to “Be Careful” slithered out the speakers (T + 9:27).

If I could distill the Peng experience into one song it’d be “Nah It Ain’t The Same,” a fluid expression of self that just feels like the epitome of cool. The bass slanks along the boulevard with undeniable confidence, the keys paint in kaleidoscopic tones and Peng floats with the melody on a cloud of kush. I fantasize about spicing up golf the way Happy Gilmore did, the first change being walk-up music to every hole like pitchers have when they head to the mound. I chuckle at the thought of me body rocking up to the tee with a doob in my lips as “Nah It Ain’t The Same” bounces from the speakers, the “Quiet” signs replaced with ones that read “Turn It Up.”

I put my putter down and take some time to admire the colors that make up the living room. It’s a testament to my fiancee’s interior design creativity and our penchant for a vibrant life full of mementos and memories. A holographic String Cheese Incident tour poster shimmers next to a wall-length jellyfish lamp from the 1960’s that was passed on from my fiance’s grandmother. Photos of party hardy friends hang next to colorful paintings and a collection of rocks and stones mark some of the backcountry paths and metaphysical journey’s we’ve found ourselves on in nature. It’s easy to hang these things up as decorations and forget the sentimentality inherent in them. I swell with gratitude for my life and my friends. 

As I gaze at pictures I hear Peng lament, “You suffer, I suffer, you suffer, I suffer with you,” over gorgeous pricks of guitar on “Suffer” (T + 17:18) I’m instantly reminded of a friend who had left but two days ago in a whirlwind of grief, trauma and uncertainty. The future that had once shone bright had been enveloped by the darkest of clouds, a once in a lifetime tempest surely on the horizon. An indelible companion it was hard to see him go, a psychedelic warrior on a mission. You suffer, I suffer, I suffer with you. 

I start flipping through random books I haven’t quite gotten around to reading in full. On a day like this, vibrating from Peng’s rhythms, I peruse pages on espionage codes, music essays and the history of the everglades. I came across a book about pioneer women called Roses of the West (T + 26:41) as “Satta” plays around me. “Top top goes the souls of the city” Peng professes over a slick little bump of horns. It’s an anthem to the bustling ethos of the city and I picture these women and their hardscrabble swagger, bumping some Greentea Peng in magnificent buffalo hides, living it up on a night out in these mining boom towns, where real lawlessness prevailed. Wild stuff.

Peng implores me to “just eat some shrooms,” which I can’t do, but I do puff down another bowl out of respect (T + 29:00). I then find myself out on the porch, wafting in the hot smell of asphalt and kids playing in almost 100-degree heat. I appreciate the little oasis in the sky my fiance has made for us up here, with sun sails blocking the sun, hand upholstered deck chairs and a small garden of peppers, herbs and flowers strewn about in little pots and planters. MAN MADE  is muffled through the door but it’s nice to step into a larger reality than the one I had been living in the last 30 minutes. I bake and feel the sun’s truth, I inhale and smell the dhalia’s divinity. We’ve created life out there, something out of nothing, and I couldn’t be more proud of my fiance and what she’s brought to fruition.

I turn inside and the apartment is quiet, MAN MADE is finished. I had missed the last third of the album. So it goes, I’ll run it back later. Even without taking in the full album in this first session,  I am moved by the power, ingenuity and one-of-a-kind musicality of it and thoroughly impressed by Peng and the Seng Seng Family band. Their collective groove is undeniably tight and focused with plenty of audial tracers and atmospherics on the peripherals that give it this mystical ambiance. They’ve built their own enchanted, fertile wonderland of sound and it was restorative to experience my own personal sanctuary through MAN MADE’s sonic lens. 

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