Meredith Monk-Facing North

September 14, 2008

Meredith Monk with Robert Een

Facing Norh (ECM 1992)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0uxdfn4s2mz

Although I now classify myself as an agnostic, thirteen years of Catholic schooling and four spent as an altar boy instill a love of the hushed reverence of the Catholic mass. From the scent of incense rattling around the burning thurible to the towering candles, I was a born sucker for the rituals and the choral works that pervaded my Sundays. I was never one for the sermons, but the hymns always kept me coming back throughout my childhood. I still find myself humming many of them and reliving those moments where the entire neighborhood joined together in song. There was a communal, ritualistic aspect of it which spoke to me even when I realized that the tenets of Catholicism weren’t going to jive with my emerging beliefs.

Obviously, music has played a major role in my upbringing and everyday existence, otherwise I wouldn’t feel compelled to spend my free time penning these pieces. Looking back, I feel as if many of my favorite albums hearken back to the ethereal choruses of my Catholic upbringing. Since I no longer found solace in Catholicism, I searched out secular music that tapped into the mysticism and ritual that appealed to me as a child. Therefore, there has been much time spent listening to Arvo Part, John Tavener, Cocteau Twins and Lisa Gerrard in an attempt to tap into the parts of mass that I loved as a child.

Recently, I have revisited the music of Meredith Monk and feel as if her 1992 album Facing North achieves that same sense of the sublime. I bought in a cut-out bin ten years ago and dismissed it as a bunch of wanky vocal acrobatics and smarmy artsy-farsty twaddle. However, I thought the Meatmen and Killdozer were pretty swell at time and probably wasn’t in a mood for self-reflection at that time in my life.

Facing North was inspired by her time spent in rural Canada during the most dark and frigid months of winter. Her inspiration comes through in the minimal nature of her work and one gets a feeling of isolation, detachment and a touch of madness after listening to the entire album. Monk is best known for her ability to manipulate her voice in unbelievable ways, but Facing North sees her toning down her act for a more restrained approach. The results are so goddamn gorgeous, occasionally ridiculous, but always riveting in its single-mindedness. Facing North reminds me of an absurd and playful version of the choirs of my youth and takes me back to time when I believed and sang my little heart out in praise of something larger than myself.

Jezzreel-Great Jah Jah

September 14, 2008

Jezzreel

Great Jah Jah (Wackies 1980, reissued 2006)

http://www.mediafire.com/?mytxo4wz3oz

I’ve never really delved into the reissue program of the Wackies label releases, but probably should do so since it has been overseen by Basic Channel/Rhythm and Sound innovators, Mauritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus. I’ve liked most of what I’ve heard thusfar, especially the Sugar Minott album, Wicked Ago Feel It! When I saw that Jezzreel consisted of Minott’s longtime collaborators, Clive Davis and Christopher Harvey, my interest was piqued. A few months ago, I saw a cheap copy for sale and figured that I’d take the plunge. This is a bit more drugged and dub-influenced than the few Minott albums I’ve heard and I think I may prefer Jezzreel’s eccentric harmonies and bizarro rants about the Roman empire over Minott’s more accessible approach. However, if anyone is able to tunr me onto some deep Minott excursions, I’d be greatly indebted to you.

Great Jah Jah possessed all of the trademarks of the Wackies label with its mix of angelic harmonizing, hypnotic basslines and and an eccentric streak a mile wide. In fact, Rhythm and Sound’s modern update of dub doesn’t sound too far removed from this 1980 gem. The highlight of Great Jah Jah is “Roman Soldiers” which seems to be an anti-imperialist rant that threatens the wrath of Jah upon colonial oppressors. On the other hand, it is a dense track with what sounds like a dying melodica being abused in the background as the nimble basslines snake all over the goddamn place. A less claustrophobic air pervades the rest of the album as elements of doo-wop lover’s rock take the forefront and the album takes a more laid-back narcotic path as everything is phased to high heaven. I really dig the guitarist’s work on this album and possibly enjoy it even more since he goes by the moniker of Reggae Jerry.  Sure, there are better dub and reggae albums in this wonderful world of ours, but this one just sounds perfect on this humid evening and it seemed fitting to share with you even if it is cold and damp in your corner of the planet.