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.

Electrelane-Axes

May 18, 2010

Electrelane

Axes(Too Pure 2005)

http://www.divshare.com/download/11404916-2af.rar

Recorded in one take, Axes is one of those rare albums that sounds intricately crafted and obsessively planned, yet captures the wild-eyed abandon of a band willing to shred the map and forge new directions on the fly. Yes, it’s a contradictory statement, but Axes is a cooly composed, yet ragged recording that lets its frayed edges come to the forefront. It’s like a seamless, yet unlikely bridge between krautrock, prog, post-punk, Factory Records and Steve Reich’s Music for 18 musicians filtered through an accessible indie-rock aesthetic. Nothing else in Electrelane’s discography dips its toes into this territory and it is a bit of an anomaly when you step back and view their output as a whole. To their infinite credit, Axes is probably a fucking anomaly when compared to the last decade of music as a whole. Who else digested such overutilized ingredients and spit out a fresh recipe worthy of their idols? Electrelane did and I am reminded of their unheralded genius each time I place Axes on my turntable.

If you slapped me silly and demanded that I sum up Axes in a solitary word, I would have to choose “brooding” as its modifier since each instrument sounds like it’s being played in a bizarro version of the Cure’s “In a Forest” or New Order’s Movement minus the drummer who plays you like a snake charmer with repetitive, but deceptively complex percussion that suckers you into the abyss. Although its predecessor, The Power Out, played with many of the same themes explored here, there was a catharsis and release experienced during each triumphant chorus. Sentiments and feelings are bottled up tight on Axes as the band keeps emoting to a bare minimum as they explore what can be done with repetition, pop and punk when kept out of sun for days on end. I wouldn’t call Axes a depressing album, but it’s the first album I tend to reach for when dusk creeps over the horizon and you can smell the rain about to fall at any moment. It’s the aural equivalent of those moments before the shit hits the fan. It captures that jumbled rush of anticipation, regret and melancholy as you process those seconds before things are irrevocably changed forever, . Let’s cap this gusher and embrace the simple aesthetic of the album and say that it is an epic that never forgets the majesty to be found in simplicity.

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.


Shogun Kunitoki-Tasankokaiku

September 22, 2008

Shogun Kunitoki

Tasankokaiku (Fonal 2006)

http://www.mediafire.com/?hdjt1ugtzii

To many, the sounds of buzzing drones, endless riffs and repetitive chords may appear to be little more that a masturbatory exercise. To me, these are ecstatic moments that put me into a mental space where music becomes something spiritual and magical. I love a well-crafted pop song, driving punk scuzz and elegant classical composition that inspire me to reach for a snifter of brandy. Well, that last reference was a bit fancy for my cruddy mitts, but it does actually happen on occasion. However, there are certain albums that whisk you off into a nodding daze where you can only focus on each progression even though you know the next step is much like the one taken just moments earlier. Terry Riley, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, Morton Feldman, Sleep and others occupy this mental suite, but another has wormed its way into my heart, rendering the others sloppy seconds in my noggin.

Shogun Kunitoki are the ones who have occupied this treasure space in my heart for over year. Drawing from the krautrock masters, Harmonia, Neu, Cluster and Kraftwerk while paying slight tribute to minimalist composers Steve Reich and Charlemagne Palestine. The band crafts interlapping waves of organ playing with sudden swooshes of psychedelic effects that are tempered by a restrained, but focused rhythms that bring it all back into your general orbit. Some psychedelic albums inspire mental sludge while others conjure lofty, ethereal moods, but Tasankokaiku makes my mind feel like a tangled army  of cheap Christmas lights set ablaze during the last moments before Santa Claus rockets down my chimney. If this was released 30 years ago, you would all revere their very name, but they are ours at this very moment and deserve your adulation. This is the sound of repetition at its most audacious and complex. The layers upon layers of organ provide moments not unlike those when you first heard your first krautrock album and wondered where in the holy hell this music has been your entire life.

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.

Arnold Dreyblatt

Animal Magnetism (Tzadik 1995)

http://www.mediafire.com/?njyjz1mn45n

I have spent an hour or two pondering life while listening to the rich drones of Arnold Dreyblatt. I first encountered the name while paging through an issue of Your Flesh where Jim O’ Rourke listed his favorite albums of the year and christened Animal Magnetism the best of 1995. Being the bleating sheep that I am, there was an immediate order placed at the Wall to Wall Sound and Video in my godforsaken town. I expected something akin to the Scott Walker, Roy Montgomery and Rafael Toral listed in his love letter, but was pleasantly surprised to hear that it wasn’t quite like anything else on that minimalist list.

There are many improbably combinations that our minds can conjure: Peanut butter and cauliflower puree, scallops and butterscotch or Kevin Spacey in a Bobby Darin biopic. Most of these flights of fancy are purely the result of narcotics. However, I cannot explain Kevin Spacey’s unfortunate foray. However, if you had suggested that you could combine Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians with Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs, I would accuse you of putting your mustard in my chutney.

Thankfully, Arnold Dreyblatt’s Animal Magnetism does exactly that. It takes the textured waves of minimalist composition and the musician play like a band made out of junkyard instruments. This is somehow funky in its clunky and hypnotic sort of way. It is a strong, muscular album that removes minimalism from the realm of lanky miscreant and makes a dance party out of it. I haven’t yet been so far gone to attempt an Arnold Dreyblatt dance party, but give me a ring and we shall see what we can muster up.

This is the sound of music hitting ecstatic peaks and mining mournful valleys. This is the sound of repetition taken to new places. This beats the pants off those moments where I pleasured myself with sounds of a single string. It is a joyful cacophony that makes me realize all that is wonderful about music.

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.