On his latest project, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Particle Kid (J. Micah Nelson) pulls listeners down the rabbit hole to experience the music he’s been making over the past five years. His self-described “experimental future-folk solo project” is releasing a sprawling epic, Time Capsule, taking listeners on a nearly two-hour trip through various genres, ideas and sounds, an eclectic palette of sonic colors, both familiar and exploratory feelings painted together like a collage, as if 90s alt, 60s psych, 70s electric jazz, and some abstract future were all magazines—chopped up and somehow cohesively glued together by Micah’s voice and lyrics as well as guest spots from Margo Price, J Mascis and Sean Ono Lennon, among others.
Described by Rolling Stone as a “trippy troubadour” and a “musical polymath who combines an indie DIY aesthetic with a questing hippie spirit and a relentless work ethic,“ Particle Kid is a constantly absorbing and evolving musician who has both musical DNA and professional experience backing Neil Young (along with his brother Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real), collaborating with John Doe, Tinariwen and the Flaming Lips and working on his own projects like the psych-punk orchestra Insects vs. Robots. Micah’s dad, Willie Nelson, helped name his band: Micah rolled into the house one day and Willie meant to say, “Welcome home, Prodigal Son!” but he had just burned a fat one and it came out as, “Welcome home, Particle Kid!” instead.
Time Capsule was recorded in many different places and times with different people over the past 5 or 6 years, on everything from 16-track, 2-inch tape machines in fancy recording studios and cassette 4-tracks in bedrooms to laptops in hotel rooms. Originally Time Capsule was going to be three different albums or EPs until Micah decided, “Fuck it, let’s put it all on one big record,” envisioning that “the songs would be like cut-out pieces from magazines and the little weird segue interludes would be the glue that holds it all together.” He came up with the idea earlier this year while quarantined in a studio: “I was thinking about how all of the art and music we make are like little time capsules, tangible forms of memories captured and frozen in time, like little plot points in our lives that exist now and we get to dig them up years later and revisit them.”
The album feels like an organic, laidback friends and family affair, with many of the guests and influences being the people Micah plays and tours with. “Velocirapture (The Serpent Flew),” featuring Lennon on vocals, guitar and mellotron, was written while super-stoned, wide awake and daydreaming about dinosaurs. Fittingly, since this record recalls at times both Dinosaur Jr. (one of Micah’s favorite bands) and Sebadoh/Sentridoh/Lou Barlow, “Someone Else’s Dream” features J Mascis on guitar. “All One Day (Shadow of the Sun)” is a birthday tribute featuring Willie Nelson and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. “WTF (No Somebody)” is a positive vibe that features the Lovely Eggs. “Love Is Worth” is a twangy stream-of-consciousness tune featuring Margo Price.
The finale is “Amerikan Lyfe,” an epic family jam featuring Willie: “Shit was hitting the fan all around us and this increasing existential anxiety about everything, so there was an odd comfort in being not only stuck in a recording studio and able to focus on making new music as a sort of temporary escape from it all, but it was especially very cathartic/therapeutic to have a reason to collectively scream, ‘LIFE! LIFE! LIFE!’ over and over again as loudly as possible,” he says. “Having these great memories with folks I love to help offset such darkness during a very stressful time is a true gift.”
“It feels like we are experiencing a major plot point in history for better or worse, and the idea of collaging all this music into a literal time capsule was interesting,” he says. The album will be available digitally and on CD along with a limited run of 20 actual time capsules, hand-crafted from hempcrete (a fire-resistant, highly insulative building material made from hemp stalks) by Micah. Inside each one will be a thumb drive including the record, videos, printed album artwork, industrial hemp seeds that he cultivated himself, and a physical ticket to a Particle Kid concert in 20 years. Then people can fill the time capsule with their own mementos and reconnect with it decades from now. “It’s like an interactive art piece,” he says.