Sunday, February 24, 2008

Boxhead Ensemble - two brothers (2001)

Michael Krassner assembled yet another version of the Boxhead Ensemble to record the amazing Two Brothers.

"From This Point Onward" (11 minutes) is an abstract chamber-requiem as performed by a fusion band. The instrumental interplay often gets discordant within the track, but is then covered up by the resigned melancholia of Jessica Billey's violin in particular. The sleepy pace recalls slowcore, the tight improvisation recalls jazz, while the austere nature recalls chamber music.

The most epic is "Two Brothers" (18 minutes) which starts as a Slavic folk-theme adapted to the slowcore sensibility, over which further guitar is deployed in Fahey-ian landscapes and dissonant picking. To add to the intensity, electronic effects cast further dejection and disharmony to the lonely and ghostly scenery of the track.

"Requiem" (10 minutes) features a prominent melody which the band exploits at will, covering an extensive range of moods as the track progresses, from majestic, to mournful, to romantic, to tragic, to playful, to introspective etc. "Come Again No More" is perhaps the most impressive, with the strings radiating their unearthly energy in what at times appears to be a cacophonous sea of sound, and at times a soaring ultraviolet hymn.

Yet despite the epic length of these tracks, one shouldn't neglect the humble 3 minutes of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (a sad winter meditation, with the radiant strings giving it an almost demonic tone in the end), the suspenseful 4 minutes of "The Half-Light" (a desolate jam with tense horns, metallic percussion and haunted electronic effects), and the 3 minutes of "Sba" (echoes of a faint contemplation amidst a cursed landscape).

Get it here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eyeless In Gaza - pale hands i loved so well (1982)

Eyeless In Gaza created one of the best ambient albums of the time with
Pale Hands I Loved So Well, though it wouldn't do it justice to call it just an ambient album. Their instrumental vignettes were plunged in a spiritual fervour, and had the quality of fragile bitterwseet contemplations or of metaphysical longing.

"Tall And White Nettles" combines gentle guitar strumming, found sounds and eerie female vocals to great effect. The chamber music of "Blue Distance" is built around mysterious organ-drones, piano ripples, and imperceptible chanting. The mystical dance "Sheer Cliffs", which is half-gypsy and half-Indian, is truly a magical moment. "Falling Leaf/ Fading Flower" is a concerto for brass wails and gentle tones, part free-jazz and part electronic-experiment. "Lies Of Love" is another numinous dance, eventually expanding in a mist of metallic percussion, longing voices and Middle-Eastern brass. Beautiful.

"To Ellen" is possibly the most transcendental moment here; a spectral hymn of haunted organs and sublime vocals by a siren. "Pale Saints" is a fusion of free-jazz and musique concrete. "Letters To She" is an ecclesiastical chant combined with subsonic drones and unsettling electronic effects, culminating in hysterical celestial voices and orchestral ultrasonic frequencies, before finally settling for a pensive tone. This is the soundtrack to man's reincarnation as pure energy in outer space.

In comparison, "Light Sliding" sounds timid and shy, though still deployed like a philosophical reminiscence. Then "Big Clipper Ship" is yet another stunning eclectic moment, partly kosmische, partly European-folk, partly chamber, partly ethereal, partly exotica perscussion, partly militant march, and played in their usual recondite way. A fantastic ending to a fantastic album.

Get it here.