Terry Riley

Persian Surgery Dervishes

http://www.mediafire.com/?jglndi3mn4m

Terry Riley embodies the essence of minimalism. His music has always tapped into the primal recesses of my brain and lured me into some pretty deep meditative states. His mastery isn’t a surprise since he learned under the tutleage of the master of Indian classical music, Pandit Pran Nath, who has also blown a few of my synapses over the years. His devotion to the open-ended nature of composition and performance via his series of All-Night Concerts in the 60s and divine patience in developing themes only to allow them to morph into something even more transcendent is awe-inspiring in my grubby book. Plus, I like the idea of how he would invite people to bring sleeping bags and pillows to his All-Night Concerts so he could play tape-delayed saxophone and the harmonium until sunrise.  I can only imagine what it would be like to experience the incessant undulation and shifts in tone as Riley whisked all of his willing passengers into a trance state. Maybe I am just a born sucker for the hypnotic powers of a slowly developing riff or composition, but my weary heart wishes it could be a part of such a near-religious experience. Alright, enough of my pseudo-mystical banter and butchered romanticism toward altered states of mind, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what makes Persian Surgery Dervishes a welcome addition to my life.

I don’t have the second half of the double cd which collects these dual performance of Persian Surgery Dervishes, but the one pasted here includes a 1971 performance in Los Angeles. I prefer this one over the Paris performance since it is somehow more damaged, yet serene. I am drawn to Persian Surgery Dervishes since there is so much accomplished with two distinct elements. You have a slow-motion organ riff that kind of percolates in the background. It really doesn’t deviate much from its bearings. Its job is to throb in the background while Riley goes bananas on an electric organ. This second element is essential to the piece since it is the motor which drives the composition. Well, this motor gets quite revved up at times, but doesn’t really go anywhere. It is static, yet incredibly busy at time. Riley knows the allure of restraint and pacing and slowly builds from a sensual tease to a goddamn psychedelic frenzy. He really beats the shit out the organ when the piece gets hectic. It’s even hard to type this as I listen to it since there are sections which make your brain feel like taffy left on the radiator for the night. There isn’t really any concessions to melody, but to twisting patterns that kind of collide and coalesce into something larger than the previous motif.  For me, it mimics the many thoughts that bounce around in our minds. There is something soothing about examining one’s life closely and traversing the pathways of thought. Somehow, Persian Surgery Dervishes is the perfect companion for those times when you find yourself in the eye of the storm and can lucidly examine the reasons behind the tumult and transition. Again, I am getting a but too heavy for my own good, so let’s just say that it’ll blow your boo-boo loose and make cole slaw out of your cabbage.

Luciano Cilio

Dell’Universo Assente (1977, reissued by Die Schachtel in 2004)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0zzb39ali3w

Much thanks to Jim O’ Rourke and the Die Schachtel label for helping to reissue this Italian composer’s work so that new ears can appreciate its delicacy and beauty. Picture a lusher and more linear take on Morton Feldman abstract washes of sound. Now, I love me some Morton Feldman, but Dell’Universo Assente bests his high points by far. Some of it even reminds me of Roedelius’ hertbreaking piano work on Lustwandel minus the Vangelis sweep and majesty. It is not all shimmer and sparkle becaue Cilio’s compositions have plenty of rough edges and discordant moments that transcends a moody confection.

Dell’Universo Assente was his 1977 debut and this is made all the more tragic due to the fact that he took his own life in 1983. Maybe it is because I have been obsessed with Charles Ives, Feldman, Giacinto Scelsi and Steve Reich lately, but Cilio’s debut really speaks to me lately. I’ve been kind of down and out and its slow-motion dissonance coupled with stately melody just really sums up my mood these days. It’s kind of a bummer for a classical album and I feel like I am staring from the bottom of a well as I listen to it. There is something hopelessly gorgeous about it. It is the sound of giving up and reconciling yourself to your fate.  At the same time, there is something uplifting about it due to how it taps into the sublime and makes you believe that a classical/drone/etc. album can really change your whole day at the sound of the first note.


Roland Dahinden

Flying White (Mode 2005)

http://www.mediafire.com/?ab7zjyajcem

I get positively tongue-tied when discussing classical music since I lack the context, background knowledge and musical vocabulary to do it any justice. I’ve always been a dilettante and a casual observer of classical music and have usually gravitated towards the repetitive minimalism of Steve Reich and the apocalyptic sounds of Gorecki, Penderecki and Ligeti. That’s kind of where my knowledge ends, so I cannot tell you who or what has influenced Roland Dahinden to compose such crushing compositions, but I can tell you that I am kind of obsessed with Flying White.

Roland Dahinden is a Swiss composer and trombonist who studied under Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton. In addition, John Cage and Pauline Oliveros have composed works for him to premiere. I guess Flying White does owe a bit to the drones and minimalism of Oliveros and Lucier, but it is also its own peculiar beast. Many of you will find Flying White to be a never ending parade of gently scraped strings and rumbling, but this isn’t for everyone. It is kind of a difficult listen in that each composition seems to bleed into the next resulting in a woozy and eerie atmosphere reminiscent of Artemiev’s soundtrack for Solaris. However, it definitely sets a mood, albeit a very uneasy and paranoid one. Flying White kind of reminds me of rough waters. Short swells of sounds that are immediately interrupted by something more unsettling that point to trouble ahead. There is no climax, only a constant build that is repeatedly interrupted before it can ever approach a climax. It is an exercise in frustration, but a gorgeous one at that.

Ingram Marshall

Fog Tropes/Gradual Requiem/Gambuh 1 (New Albion 1994)

http://www.sendspace.com/file/n6qugm

An American composer whose works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet and Andy Summers of the Police, Igram Marshall’s compositions run the gamut from Balinese fluting/electronic hybrids to orchestral works that sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a well. This is high praise indeed since his best efforts stand up to works by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, Iannis Xenaxis and others who pushed the gilded envelope of classical music.

The first piece “Fog Tropes” was composed in 1979 at the request of performance artist Grace Ferguson. Marshall wanted to create a piece reminiscent of the fog-shrouded bays of San Francisco, so he went around the waterfront and made numerous field recordings of different fog horns. Now, the end result sounds nothing like the flatulent fiesta you’d expect after a piece based on fog horns. Marshall marries queasy drones, unsettlingly dissonant strings and the soothing, but authoritatize blare of the fog horn to create a noirish soundtrack to 3am on a lonely pier.

The other two pieces “Gradual Requiem” and “Gambuh 1” have supposedly been altered to fit the theme of the opener. In particular, Gradual Requiem is an especially claustrophobic listen as the flutes become increasingly overdubbed and more intense until it resembles one of Jon Hassell’s “Fourth World” multi-culti nightmares. Then, the insanity gently wanes and gives way to the most angelic mandolin playing this side of Heaven or Nashville.

Listen deeply and hear groundbreaking sounds; Listen shallowly and you have a majestic soundtrack to your morning crossword. Have a fucking crumpet while you’re at it. Fog Tropes offers as much as you are willing to give.

Aphex Twin

Donkey Rhubarb ep (Warp/Sire 1995)

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

Man, I still am amenable to spending a couple hours listening to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Every buzz and drone sings to my weary soul. Love it just as much as the day I picked it up from a godforsaken Western PA chain store on the day of its release. Now, I like most of his ouvre, but everything he released after this ep makes me wish he expanded on the themes and ideas located here. Donkey Rhubarbs is the most concise summary of all that was good about Richard D. James before he began giggling in his tank and posing for the Wire with pantyhose over his noggin.

Each of the four tracks represent four sides of Aphex Twin. The last two tracks are perfect summations of his rapidfire take on idm, Detroit techno and acid while the openers explore terrain that was sadly abandoned.

“Pancake Lizard” starts the ep in dramatic fashion. It actually redeems trip-hop as a genre instead of the 99-pound weakling it truly was. Outside of Portishead and possiblly Tricky’s debut, name me one worthwhile trip-hop album. Slowed down hip-hop beats, limp drones and diva rejects abounded in this misguided genre. However, Aphex Twin treats the genre like a soundtrack as he melds the slow-motion drama of Selected Ambient Works and grafts it to a simple, but effective beat that ultimately wields all of the tension trip-hop lacked.

However, “Icct Hedral” is the one that really hurts. Why couldn’t he have explored the world of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Lalo Schifrin as he does here. This collaboration with Glass is breathtaking and frustrating because he never really delved into classical music in such a way ever again. From the forboding chorus and thick bass to the delicate idm tinkling replicated by a string section, this track shows a side of Richard D. James that could’ve been groundbreaking. Before anyone complains, he did use strings and incorporate elements of classical music into his music, but this track is a grandiose moment that points to what should have been. Instead, his attention span got the better of him and jokey drill and bass was the next step.