Global Communications

76:14 (Dedicated 1994)

http://www.mediafire.com/?zbpv5lhpz3r8wz8

Sometimes I obsessively search for the “perfect” album to post here at the expense of countless ones whose brilliance is overshadowed by the filler that hinders its chance at greatness. That’s a shame since this omits so many beloved fragments just because they don’t quite complete the jigsaw puzzle I’ve built up in my snooty mind. These meanderings rambled through my noggin as I revisited Global Communications’ 76:14 album for the first time in a decade and literally became teary-eyed while listening to the opening strains of “14.31.” All of 76:14’s titles signify their length and I found myself wishing it could be renamed something approximating” infinity and beyond” as a deceptively simple trio of a circular keyboard pattern, waxing and waning waves of synthesizers and a ticking clock coalesce into the kind of aural experience that makes you feel like you are levitating a few inches off of the earth. It’s easily one of the true ambient records in that it changes your mood instantly and alters your immediate reality without ever quite rising above a whisper. If only I lugged a blood pressure cuff around for kicks so I could test my new theory that 76:14 lowers my blood pressure when the right tracks are played in my general vicinity.

Global Communication consisted of an English duo, Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton, who were an integral part of the 90s ambient scene popularized by The Orb, early Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. People tend to forget albums like the KLF’s Chill Out and Future Sounds of London’s Lifeforms and artists like Biosphere, Higher Intelligence Agency, Pete Namlook and early Black Dog which is a shame since many of the aforementioned artists released work that fits snugly against the discographies of Brian Eno, Roedelius, Cluster, Moebius and Tangerine Dream, let alone the swath of 70s synth loners that seem to get reissued and snapped up by folks turned onto these sounds by today’s kinded spirits like Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never and Steve Moore. Maybe it’s because the 90s ambient scene got lumped into the unfortunate genre of electronica that it gets snubbed due to its unfortunate association with such unfortunate genres as trip-hop and electronica and folks got blinded by the haze of glow sticks and MDMA, but there are so many gems patiently waiting for your discerning ears to validate their existence.

Anyhow, lets get back to the thesis laid out in the first sentence of this rambling mess of a review. 76:14 is by no means a perfect album as a few tracks dull its edge as Pritchard and Middleton let the beat take center stage at the expense of the pristine ambience that is meticulously crafted throughout the remainder of the album. However, even the stinkers are bearable in a mellow, shuffling and aimless way, but 76:14’s summits erase your mental chalkboard pretty quickly and you forgive them for their foibles. I’ve even grown to love “9.25” even though it is centered around a slow-motion breakbeat since it slathers on a healthy slab of 4ad inspired etherealness comlplete with angelic coos and a subliminal wash of whispers that make it just weird enough to pass muster.

Even though I sheepishly admitted that “14.31” nearly reduced me to quivering jelly, the true centerpiece of 76:14 can be found in its majestic finale “12.18.” During my admittedly amateurish research of this album, I consulted the sages at amazon.com who’ve reviewed this album over the past 17 years and was pleasantly surprised to see the litany of praise for this track as one of the most gorgeous ambient compositions of all-time. Yes, it sounds like pure bullshit and sheer hyperbole, but it is so goddamn true. This track sends that same shiver up my spine as Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Roedelius’ Lustwandel, Cocteau Twins’ Treasure, Lisa Gerrard’s Mirror Pool and countless other albums and songs that seem like they were plucked from an alien universe to teach us how life affirming, moving and goddamn radiant music can be when you aim for synchronicity. For once, I must pay tribute to those surprisingly erudite souls at amazon.com because they are right on the money. “12.18” honestly eclipses 99% of anything ever  it labeled as ambient music as qualifies as a spiritual cleansing through sound. It’s the kind of ethereal fog you want to dive into during times of distress as if it were an aural womb. It is a peaceful, calm place where all is right in your godforsaken world and it alone makes this admittedly uneven album a transcendent one.

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.