Sunday, February 27, 2011

Glenn Branca - the ascension (1981)

Glenn Branca's The Ascension is played by an ensemble of 4 guitars, bass, and drums. It starts conventionally with "Lesson No. 2", which is elastic punk-funk, with the 4 guitars giving it a "symphonic" sound, but the track ends with crashing monotones, which speed up, slow down, speed up again etc. The 13-minute "The Spectacular Commodity" starts with Stravinsky-an ebullience, a sort of Rock in Opposition meets No Wave meets Chamber Music hybrid, but the continuation is quite anthemic. A series of movements follows, forming what is essentially a highly fluid mini-symphony, though a bit of pomp isn't avoided. "Structure" is an interlude which returns to cold, geometrical, glacial repetitions, layered in such a way so that they sound enormous.

The 8-minute "Light Field" is a perverse military-march of sorts, with the ensemble's typical huge sound. The movements are more subtle, with guitar lines that hide behind other guitar lines, until they align and "move" the track forwards, which itself represents a plexus in constant motion blur. Ambiance comes to the fore in the 13-minute "The Ascension", with reverberation creating a resonating sound, much more cosmic and religious than any of the previous tracks, with vibrant streams that represent an antenna that picks up spiritual forces; by 6:00 minutes, with the introduction of percussion, the track does indeed constitute a hymn of catastrophic intensity, until it freezes (7:30), re-starts, re-freezes, and then the track resumes on a slightly different harmonic scale, still representing a tortuous flow of cosmic forces, until they unite to form a spectral supernova and the track ends. Get it here.