Continuum Music. A Playlist by Roger Mexico

All Western contemporary drone musics owe almost everything they have to one 'band' spawned in New York in the 1960's, the Theatre Of Eternal Music or, maybe more accurately, The Dream Syndicate. La Monte Young, came from Fluxus traditions and became interested in the ideas of sustained tones, harmonic relations, and more specifically just intonation. Young recruited the viola and violin players, John Cale and Tony Conrad, who were also into sustained tones. Marian Zazeela, provided vocals and visuals and Angus Maclise played percussion. The Theatre Of Eternal Music took avant-garde music into a new realm, inventing minimalism while sustaining notes for minutes at a time. It is joked that Tony Conrad played a perfect fifth for his whole tenure with the group.

Young claims to have decided upon which harmonic relations to be played and not played and, he claims this give's him composition rights. I stand in Cale and Conrad's corner. This mix is dedicated to the Theatre Of Eternal Music.

On to the mix...

In music of this nature things tend to be long form so, this tour of Tony Conrad, John Cale and La Monte Young's 1960's actions is 2 hours and 15 minutes long. It includes work from the Theatre Of Eternal Music to solo works, soundtracks and rare collaborations. At least 3 of these recordings coming from Tony Conrad's apartment at 56 Ludlow St. Enjoy!
-Roger Mexico

Tony Conrad circa 1965

Continuum Sounds Episode 1:

1)The Tortoise, His Dreams, & Journeys (1963) - Theatre Of Eternal Music
2) Four Violins (1964) - Tony Conrad (Available on Table Of The Elements)
3) Silent Shadows On Cinemaroc Island (1964) - Jack Smith, John Cale, & Tony Conrad (Available on Table Of The Elements)
4) The Second Fortress (1968) - John Cale
5) Chumlum Soundtrack (For A Film By Ron Rice) (1964) - Angus Maclise & Tony Conrad
6) 23 VIII 64 2:50:45-3:11 AM The Volga Delta (1969) - La Monte Young & Marian Zazeela
7) Pre-Tortoise Dream Music (1964) - Theatre Of Eternal Music


Various Artists 'Physical, Absent, Tangible' cd-r (Contour Editions, 2010)

It's shaping up to be a pretty damn good year for the compilation, which has sadly always sort of let me down. For what few I do actually own–label comps, musical collectives, various artists comps–I rarely go back too. Please indulge me in a very winged hypothesis that maybe the 'compilation' as an art form/object is just now finally coming into its own. Or, a far more likely scenario: I just haven't been looking hard enough for the good ones. The ones that really dig their hooks into the listener.

With this said there are some giant exceptions, Elevator Bath's A Cleansing Ascension from a couple years back was and still is very enjoyable. Recent personal discoveries like the highly anticipated and grossly delayed release of Paper & Plastic on suitcase/petri supply/incubator (March 2010), and the Patrick Mckinley (aka Murmer) curated Framework 250 (Much more info on that soon, check back at the end of the month) discs have re-sparked my faith in the potential potency of the compilation. If some of you remember or can refer back to the Not Alone 5 disc set compiled by Mark Logan of Jnana Records and Current 93's David Tibet from 2006 then you might understand where my criticism of comps stems from.

Before you start sending me negative vibes and waving your arms around in rage... stop, and hear me out. Almost every artist on that compilation was a favourite of mine at some moment in time, and actually, I was exposed to some bands that I ended up really liking as a direct result of it. Furthermore, as a Doctors Without Borders fundraiser, you couldn't really argue that it wasn't for a good cause. But! those discs did lack something. Because of how eclectic all the musicians were it there lacked a fluidity and cohesiveness that other compilations have been able to achieve. I don't blame Logan either, as it must have been hell trying to lump all those acts together. I don't actually think it could of turned out better than it did with so much variance in musical style. So what's my point? let's just say that there is something to be said about the selection and attention to the congruity of musical styles when assembling such delicate documents.

Various Artists
'Physical, Absent, Tangible' cd-r (Contour Editions, 2010)

Physical, Absent, Tangible is kept simple, which plays out very much to its favour. The four artists found within fill their respective musical roles with a unified understanding of what those roles represent. The whole thing works very well. Canadian based i8u kicks things off with an eleven and a half minute analog synth work that juxtaposes high and low frequencies resulting in a pleasant sonic parallel. The experience is a lot like standing on a small patch of land in between two rivers. Christorpher Delauenti's two pieces are absolutely sublime, the first, "sigil" is a short but impressive arrangement of feedback squall and tonal noise. Where as "nictating" begins as a looped low-end rumble that eventually dismantles as a simmering drone; the album's high point. Gil Sansón provides eight short pieces that seem to represent fragments of a whole. In consideration of their brevity–and that usually this kind of off-the-grid minimalism is best represented in the long form–Sansón's section remains very strong. The final contribution, a collaborative work by Brian Mackern and Gabriel Galli (both new to me) is a static soaked excursion into subdued tactility. What sounds like morse code thrown into the mix gives this piece a real Tracer era Omit feel–definitely a good thing. Impressive stuff. Kudos to a very tasteful ice breaker for the label Mr. Garet.


The Outsider #1 | Select Music from Australia -- Part Two

Part two of two in a brief look into a small selection of experimental noise and minimal composition from Australia. This was a pretty busy week for me so I apologize for the lack of thoroughness in these reviews. I'll also be back in school as of next week so things might slow down a bit, though I will try my best to post at least 3-4 times a month. I am far from becoming jaded or exhausted by the blog world.

Vinyl Anthology (23five, 2004)

Gum was the duo of Philip Samartzis and Andrew Curtis that ignited out of a mutual love for industrial music in 1986. However, both Curtis and Samartzis explain that they could never have subscribed to the elitist and overall dead-end path of the industrial stream. Instead, Gum was a project that flourished outside any restricting archetypes. Vinyl Anthology is a two disc set containing the complete Gum recordings from 1987-1990. Their specific brand of static-soaked turntablism paved the way for people like Philip Jeck and other vinyl manipulators. Silly. Hypnotic. Funky. Noisy. Raw. And oh so Seminal.

Philip Samartzis
Soft and Loud (Plates of Sound, 2005)

While Andrew Curtis continued his artistic endeavors as a photographer, Samartzis continued along a musical path. Soft and Loud–also the title of his piece in the Variable Resistance exhibit, which, sounds to me like a shorter reworking of the material from this record–as Samartzis explains, is "an environmentally derived composition..." which was originally intended to be an 8 channel sound installation. The environmental recordings within are from various places in Japan, and were boiled down from hours worth of material with the intention of creating these "Soft and Loud" narratives. Samartzis's notes on the work delve further into the concept of this record and he sheds light on a few interesting ideas. In particular, his idea that Japan is a much more "muted" place than Australia is quite fascinating. And the music within too, is equally so.

Wind Keeps Even Dust Away (23five, 2007)

I realize that this list is heavily weighted towards 23five, but really, I can't help it when a label is consistently releasing such high calibre material. And it just so happens that the majority of the stuff hails from Australia. So sorry to anyone who sees redundancy in this post. Think of it as not only a highlight on the region but a label highlight as well.

This was the first disc of Tarab aka Eamon Sprod I had heard actually, the follow-up to 2004's Surfacedrift. I also reviewed his latest effort for 23five, Take all the Ships... on the Scrapyard in August of '09. Wind Keeps Even Dust Away however, remains my favourite. I remember giving an mp3 version to an old friend who requested some soothing music for her massage sessions. Fully aware of the album's more abrasive moments, I also provided her with a safety net: a loose mix of my own field recordings from one day down by the river that I had assembled into a 20 minute track. Sure enough, she opted for my mix over Sprod's, which, I don't know, I guess was just 'safer'. This was like two or three years ago, probably around the time this was released.

Wind. Keeps. Even. Dust. Away. As far as Sprod's sonic world goes, it seems to me as if it's infinitely vast and complex, from gentle gusts of wind to shattered glass to droning machinery to metallic clatter and everything in between. It's as if the guy can coax lush sounds out of anything really, and this album stands as a fine example of the possibilities that can be achieved in field recording composition.

Oh, and if anyone's interested, click here to download my field recording collage, which, at the time I named The Burlap Mines Recording Project.

Currently, the project is on hold.

Tim Catlin
Slow Twitch + Radio Ghosts (Dr. Jim's, 2003 + 23five, 2007)

Tim Catlin's work has always intrigued me. I think it's because what has always interested me in minimalism and experimentation in music is the idea of setting an instrument into motion by way of agitation. It's this unconventional way of understanding a particular instrument that allows Catlin to achieve his compositions. When creating his works, Catlin use various instrumentation (guitars mostly) that he resonates with handheld tools: ebow, electric toothbrush, fans, and other things that vibrate the surfaces and strings propelling his music along vast temporal plains, seldom changing and at times bordering the psychedelic.