Day-tripper Tarotplane compels listeners to get out of their heads and into the sonic groove with his stoner mix of cosmic soundscapes.
Guitarist P.J. Dorsey, who professionally goes by the name Tarotplane, seeks to explore serene, trance-like soundscapes on his psychedelic excursions. His mental voyages vagabond from cosmic abstraction to ambient techno. His latest creation, Murmuration is a hypnotic journey through live instrumentation and spacey interceptions of synth, bubbling electronics, and heavy bass tones.
Heads Lifestyle: Hey, P.J., where are you now?
Tarotplane: At work in Washington, DC (non-politics).
HL: What do you do with your time?
T: When I’m not making music, I’m walking along the Baltimore waterfront or selling furniture at my day job.
HL: Do you get high when listening to music?
T: Well, considering I listen to music almost constantly, it would be a little awkward being high that often. If I’m walking around the city, I’m almost certainly stoned. Also, if I’m working on a mix of my own personal music, I would be remiss if I wasn’t. I like to make sure the sounds are balanced and that a person’s listening experience is pleasant and not jarring in any way. The staging of music when listening is very crucial in my mind and being stoned helps you be tuned into things that can disrupt your experience.
HL: Describe a typical music-weed session?
T: 99% of the time I am walking and listening so that means headphones. I have a nice stereo, but I love to be moving in the outdoors. I feel like walking allows you to relax a bit more. I have had a medical card for a while, so I am able to get a lot of different styles. At this point, I am 100% vaporizer and I tend to do 50/50 CBD/THC blend. During COVID, I moved to a more CBD heavy blend and I’m not sure I’m going back to the more intense strains any time soon.
HL: What is your earliest memory of connecting the dots between music and cannabis?
T: I’m a little unusual in that I didn’t get high in my teens or 20s. I tried it, but I didn’t like it. I found that I got way too paranoid. I don’t drink and haven’t since my mid-20s. I was involved in selling music most of my adult life, but when I started working in a non-music-related field, I began to find life a bit dreary. When I turned 40, I decided to try some new things. I figured that maybe the adult me might enjoy smoking weed. Turns out I was very much correct! I was always very interested in “psychedelic” music for lack of a better term. I was and still am, a huge Pink Floyd fan. Once I started getting stoned and listening to the music I had grown up with, it was a bit like being colorblind and then being able to see the full spectrum. All the details were more defined, and they became more purposeful. I also picked up the guitar and started making music again. I had put it down around 12 years ago, but smoking gave me new purpose and understanding of not just music, but my creative process. I owe a lot to the decision to start using weed.
This playlist represents the sort of music I most enjoy when stoned. Even though I enjoy lots of different styles, this is my go-to in that headspace.
A.R. & Machines
Jay Guru Dev
This track was my introduction to one of the great German guitarists, Achim Reichel. The “machines” in the name represent the reel-to-reel unit he used to create this leisurely echo masterpiece. Reichel became famous making pop music and pretty much disavowed his early experimental work so it’s only starting to become better known.
A Meditation Mass Part 1
One of the great lesser-known Krautrock bands, Yatha Sidhra only did one album in 1974, but it’s among some of the best cosmic music out there.
Krishna Eating Fish and Chips
Another under the radar Krautrock masterworks. Deuter became one of the earliest artists to embrace the new age sound, but this album is entirely different—a total head record and one of the deepest. Lots of what we would now call field recordings, Indian instrumentation, trippy synths, etc. Can’t recommend highly enough!
Sequenze e Frequenze
Battiato is called “Il Maestro” in his home country of Italy because he is well loved for his popular songs. He was one of the first well-known artists to go into an experimental phase while he was a pop star, and he did this for a number of albums. There is no one like him. He takes you to new places.
Movements of a Visionary
This track shows the absolute greatness and innovation of Tangerine Dream and why they are so well regarded. It must have blown some minds in the 70s when it was slapped on Hi-Fis all over the globe. Psychedelia incarnate.
Günter Schickert is another great German cosmic guitarist. After hearing the sequenced synth sound of Tangerine Dream, Schickert tried to emulate something similar on the guitar.
Another amazingly complex guitar album that’s become renowned because of the trance-like atmospheres it creates. The sound was pioneered by Günter Schickert but perfected by Göttsching. For everyone who enjoys stoned listening, this should be an excursion you take at least once.
A Sprinkling of Clouds
Another record that was exploding the minds of young people in bedsits all over Europe in the 70s. I would venture to say that if back then, you were putting on a pair of headphones and taking a little trip, this was one of the ultimate stoner classics.
Delired Cameleon Family
A French group that was also aligned somewhat in the Gong universe. This track showcases some of the trippy goings on in that country at the time. Beautiful floating sounds.
Far East Family Band
These guys were sometimes thought of as the Japanese Pink Floyd, which is fair enough. They go to places Pink Floyd went to but camped out there for longer and made that their whole sound. The synths and drums are fantastic. The cover lets you know what to expect.
Voices of Where
The German synthesist, Michael Hoenig made his name playing for the amazing Berlin band, Agitation Free. This track has a somber mysterious quality I really respond to.
Most all of this list is music from the 70s because when I’m really stoned, that’s my typical go-to. There are a few contemporary artists that do an excellent job and Global Communication is one of the best. The album 76:14, from which this track is taken, is perhaps one of the top five ambient techno sound that started in the early 90s. It learned from its predecessors but used new technology to create something that is both of its time and timeless.
O Yuki Conjugate
This is another somewhat recent group that does it for me. O Yuki Conjugate started in the industrial era, but went on to pioneer an organic environmental ambient sound in the mid- to late-90s. This 2021 release is built on the different styles OYC have embraced over the years. I highly recommend both volumes of A Tension Of Opposites.
For me, Popol Vuh is like holy music. It has a deep mystical quality that few others possess. They have done many film soundtracks, principally for German director Werner Hertzog. Their sound matches perfectly with the weighty subjects of his films. That being said, at moments they have a guitar sound that can be reminiscent of the Grateful Dead or The Allman Brothers, which is very surprising and uplifting. I would encourage you to check out their deep catalogue.
Magical Power Mako
Sound, Mother Earth
Another absolutely individual artist that I have trouble comparing to anyone else. I guess the easiest way to put it is that he is going places that are not super well-trodden. Typically, when I’m stoned, I want something that is sonically challenging but not jarring. His work gets right up on the line between those two ideas. It’s very personal music that goes with its own flow, and I really dig it.
Bill Holt’s Dreamies
Program Ten - Part 3
This is one of the great American underground albums made in the mid-70s by Bill Holt from Delaware. He was a man in his mid-30s who had a straight job as an executive working for 3M. He decided to buy a synth and proceeded to tape record snippets of news reports and things he saw on television and incorporate them into his music. Sampling now is just part of the typical musical landscape but with this album, he stumbled onto something—while not completely new—far from ordinary. There are few albums like it and a particular inspiration to me both sonically and in terms of what you can do as you grow older. A mid-life crisis masterpiece!
Another amazing French artist. Ariel Kalma’s music wasn’t particularly well known when it came out in the late-70s, but he is now getting the notoriety he deserves. Fantastic, organic ambient music.
Now we are getting into the heavier portion of our programming. Älgarnas Trädgård is one of my favourite groups. Mystical, medieval, psychedelic rock from Sweden.
Back to Heldon
One of the great tracks from the first album by French guitarist Richard Pinhas. Fripp-style guitar married to primal synth.
Greatest guitar solo of all time? Lots of debate on the subject but for me this is it. Eddie Hazel pulls out all the stops and delivers one of the most emotional and transcendent moments in six string history. I love Hendrix, but the sheer passion displayed here gets me every time.
Tarotplane is the project name Baltimore-based guitarist PJ Dorsey has been working under since 2015 when his debut album First came out on Belgian label Aguirre Records. Since then he has racked up releases on a variety of labels such as Lullabies For Insomniacs, 12th Isle, Constellation Tatsu, Patience/Impatience, Noir Age, and several others. His sound has been dubbed "new school kosmische" because he utilizes newer technologies and processes with the styles and techniques of the 70s greats. His most recent album is called Murmuration on the NPM label London. A new release entitled Improvisations For Echo Guitar will be on the Island House label from NYC in December.
Along with his music, he has done a series of mixes for the substack he authors called Zik Zak. They are overviews of specific genres that go from ambient techno to British Folk. All of his releases and mixes are available on Bandcamp.