Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Herr, Frisell, Johnson, Driscoll - 1979 - Good Buddies

Herr, Frisell, Johnson, Driscoll 
Good Buddies

01. Acapulco Bells
02. Frog Legs Vampin' In The Moonlight
03. I Think I Know What You Mean
04. Sans Blues Thank You
05. What Do You Mean, What Do You Mean?
06. Good Buddies

Michel Herr - piano, synthesizer
Bill Frisell - guitar
Vinton Johnson - drums, percussion
Kermit Driscoll - electric bass

Recorded at studio Shiva, Brussels.

The defining characteristic of any given jazz musician is generally his sound. The greater control a new player has on the nature of this sound, the much more likely he’s to project a unique musical personality. For instance, a saxophonist provides practically unlimited physical control of the audio that comes through his horn, and for that reason an array of tonal appearance at his order, which partially points out the disproportionate amount of saxophonists within the pantheon of great jazz music artists. Alternatively, few electrical guitarists inhabit that world, in part as the normal jazz electric guitar audio differs small from participant to player. Generally, guitarists don’t have exactly the same amount of physical control. Minus the use of transmission control — which jazz purists shun — they’re mainly stuck with the common audio that arrives of the amp. Therefore, guitarists possess historically tended to “audio” pretty much exactly the same. Expenses Frisell is really a significant exclusion. Among jazz guitarists, Frisell is exclusive in his exploitation of adjustable timbre. Frisell’s audio swells and breathes just like a saxophonist’s (oddly enough, Frisell performed clarinet as a kid). In lots of ways his audio is similar to a pedal metal electric guitar. And even though his work is certainly steeped in jazz, Frisell is certainly a guy of catholic preferences. His music contains characteristics of rock and roll, nation, and bluegrass, among many other designs. Such liberality points out his determination to broaden his tonal palette beyond that of the normal jazz guitarist. Where a lot of regular jazz guitarists define themselves by just how many records they are able to play, Frisell provides carved a distinct segment by virtue of his audio. His capability as a genuine, lyrical participant of melody combines with a distinctive (if very much imitated) audio to create him perhaps one of the most singular music artists of his era. Delivered in Baltimore, Frisell was raised in Denver, Colorado. He started playing the clarinet within the 4th grade and used electric guitar a couple of years afterwards for his personal leisure. He continued using the clarinet, playing in college concerts and marching rings. Frisell briefly regarded playing traditional clarinet appropriately. He played electric guitar in rock and roll and R&B rings as an adolescent (senior high school classmates included Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, and Larry Dunn, long term members from the funk group Globe, Wind & Open fire). He found out jazz within the music of Wes Montgomery and started to research it. Dale Bruning, a Denver-based guitarist and educator, given his desire for jazz. Frisell made a decision to make acoustic guitar his primary device. After briefly going to the University or college of North Colorado, he relocated to Boston in 1971 to wait the Berklee College of Music. There he analyzed with Michael Gibbs and John Damian. While at Berklee, Frisell linked to additional like-minded players (Pat Metheny was a classmate). He also analyzed with Jim Hall, who became a significant influence, especially with regards to harmony. Within the middle-’70s, Frisell started leaving real bebop and started fusing jazz along with his additional musical passions. At concerning this period, he started developing his atmospheric, quasi-microtonal design. He found that, with a acoustic guitar with a versatile throat, he could manipulate the instrument’s intonation. A combined mix of experimental methods and indication processors like hold off and reverb provided Frisell an audio unlike every other guitarist. In the past due ’70s, he journeyed to Belgium. There he fulfilled Manfred Eicher, the creator of ECM Information. Beginning in the first ’80s, Frisell documented prolifically for the label as head and sideman, with such music artists as Paul Motian and Jan Garbarek. He continuing using the label through the entire decade, getting a popularity as ECM’s “home guitarist.” Frisell became very much acclaimed by critics for his advanced yet accessible function. He transferred to NY within the ’80s where he caused some of the most innovative music artists energetic on the city’s “downtown” jazz picture. Within the ’80s and ’90s, he documented and performed with an enormous variety of performers, not all of these jazz music artists. Collaborators included rock and roll and pop music artists (drummer Ginger Baker, performers Marianne Faithfull and Elvis Costello), experimental jazz music artists (saxophonist/composers John Zorn and Tim Berne), with least one traditional composer (Gavin Bryars). Frisell made up soundtracks for the silent movies of Buster Keaton. His 1996 recording, Quartet, received the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, the German exact carbon copy of the Grammy. Frisell became an annual champion of various journal polls for his single function and recordings. By the finish from the ’90s, Frisell was probably one of the most well-known jazz music artists on the planet, with an target audience and an visual that transcended the limitations of any provided style. It ought to be described that, while he’s most widely known for his relatively “ambient” electric guitar technique, he’s a swinging, harmonically fluent jazz participant when the event warrants. Frisell transferred to Seattle, Washington in 1989 and remained active because the 21st hundred years opened, launching Ghost City in 2000, accompanied by a collection with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones in 2001. Blues Wish also made an appearance that same calendar year, accompanied by The Willies in 2002. East/Western world and Richter 858 had been both released in 2005, along with a established with Ron Carter and Paul Motian in 2006. Background, Mystery implemented in 2008. This year 2010, a trio documenting entitled Gorgeous Dreamers premiered by Savoy Jazz. A assortment of addresses and originals, it presented Frisell together with violinist Eyvind Kang and drummer Roy Royston. Frisell also made an appearance like a sideman on Reveille, the debut single giving from Kermit Driscoll, previous bassist from the guitarist’s previous operating trio. Abigail Washburn’s 2011 recording, Town of Refuge, presented Frisell as business lead guitarist. He kicked off his personal series of produces in 2011 with Lagrimas Mexicanas, some duets with Brazilian guitarist and vocalist Vinicius Cantuária; the recording was made by Lee Townsend and released over the Entertainment on Disk/eOne imprint. Townsend also created Frisell’s go back to Savoy Jazz, Indication of Lifestyle. That record highlighted a reunion from the 858 Quartet with Frisell on guitars, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, and Hank Roberts on cello. In 2011, Frisell delved in to the music of John Lennon with All WE HAVE BEEN Stating…. A longtime enthusiast from the Beatles vocalist/songwriter, Frisell was became a member of once more by violinist Scheinman, in addition to guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen on such classics as “Over the World,” “Visualize,” “You need to Cover Your Appreciate Away,” “Julia,” “Gorgeous Boy,” among others. Hewing carefully to Lennon’s unique versions, Frisell discovered methods to explore the melody and psychological content material of Lennon’s tracks and never have to overtly modification the harmonic content material of the materials. Frisell’s 2012 also noticed the come back of Floratone — his collective with Lee Townsend, Matt Chamberlain, and Tucker Martine. Floratone II premiered on March 6, 2012. He also reestablished his reference to John Zorn’s music, showing up within the ensemble for the composer’s Gnostic Preludes with harpist Carol Emmanuel and Kenny Wollesen on vibraphone. The recording was released on Tzadik weekly after Floratone II. He released another recording for the label in early 2013. Entitled Silent Humor, it presented the guitarist inside a single placing. Frisell the composer came back within a big method in June of this year, using his 858 Quartet and drummer Rudy Royston. Jointly they documented Big Sur, his debut for Sony’s relaunched OKeh imprint. In 2013, Frisell made an appearance along with his Gnostic Trio bandmates (harpist Carol Emmanuel and vibist/percussionist Kenny Wollesen) on John Zorn’s In Lambeth: Visions in the Walled Backyard of William Blake. Frisell kicked off 2014 with an appearance on Scheinman’s Sony Masterworks established The Littlest Prisoner, have scored and documented the soundtrack to Costs Morrison’s documentary THE FANTASTIC Overflow, and duetted with Greg Cohen over the bassist’s Golden Condition record. Guitar in the area Age group!, Frisell’s tribute for some of your guitar music from the past due ’50s and early ’60s, was released by OKeh in Oct. His following label providing was IF YOU WANT Upon a Celebrity, a tribute to film composers, tv scores, as well as the music artists who played in it. Alongside tributes to Elmer Bernstein and Ennio Morricone, amongst others, the established featured addresses from the Disney listen in the name, the theme in the James Connection film YOU MERELY Live Double, and “The Darkness of the Smile” in the motion picture rating from the Sandpipers. Issued in early 2016, the documenting hit number 2 over the jazz charts.

Born in Brussels on February 16, 1949, Michel Herr is active as a pianist, composer, arranger since the seventies, mainly on the jazz scene, but also writing for movies and various media.

As a jazz pianist, he had the opportunity to play with an impressive list of well known jazz musicians 

Americans such as Joe Lovano, Joe Henderson, Chet Baker, Archie Shepp, Charlie Mariano, Pepper Adams, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Lee Konitz, Bill Frisell, Charlie Rouse, Art Farmer, Steve Grossman, Judy Niemack, Lew Tabackin, John Abercrombie, etc...
Europeans such as Palle Mikkelborg, Paolo Fresu, Daniel Humair, J-F Jenny-Clarke, Aldo Romano, Palle Danielsson, Arild Andersen, Norma Winstone, Richard Galliano, Riccardo Del Fra, François Jeanneau..., etc
and of course the cream of the Belgian musicians : Philip Catherine, Steve Houben, Bert Joris, Phil Abraham, Fabrice Alleman, Richard Rousselet, Jean-Pierre Catoul, Peter Hertmans, Bruno Castellucci, Act Big Band etc...
Since 84 and for many years, he played piano and keyboards with harmonica player Toots Thielemans. He performed with him throughout the world (Europe, USA, Japan, Africa), appeared in many major festivals (Northsea, Montreal, Antibes, Jazz Jamboree in Warsaw, Stockholm, Oslo, etc...) and participated in many TV shows, records, film soundtracks, etc. He toured with him in the US and in Japan, a.o. with bassists Rufus Reid, Ray Drummond or Riccardo Del Fra and drummers Adam Nussbaum or Billy Hart.

But Michel Herr is much more that a sought after accompanist : he always has been the leader of his own groups, in which he presents his own compositions.

At the beginning of his career, in the seventies, he led Solis Lacus, an influential fusion band, and later, an acoustic trio.
With German saxophonist Wolfgang Engstfeld he co-led an international quartet which included US drummer Leroy Lowe and various bassists : Palle Danielsson, Isla Eckinger, Riccardo Del Fra, Hein Van De Geyn, Detlev Beier.

With Dutch bassist Hein Van De Geyn and American drummer Leroy Lowe he recorded the trio CD : "Intuitions". Sax Prize 1989 (Belgian Critics Award as Best Belgian jazz album of the year). Rated "Five Spots" in the French jazz magazine Jazz Hot.

Today Michel Herr leads several bands (from the trio to the big band). His latest projects are :
The Michel Herr European Quintet, with Bert Joris, Wolfgang Engstfeld, Riccardo Del Fra and Dré Pallemaerts.
The quintet's first CD, "Notes Of Life" (Igloo) received very enthusiatic reviews.

Michel Herr Unexpected Encounters, a nine-piece ensemble combining his European Quintet with a string quartet.

Michel Herr & Life Lines, a nine or ten piece band featuring his own compositions and arrangements, with top Belgian players : Steve Houben, Bert Joris or Gino Lattuca, Fabrice Alleman, Phil Abraham, Marcus Bartelt, Jacques Pirotton, Sal La Rocca or Sam Gerstmans and Bruno Castellucci or Dré Pallemaerts.

Moreover, he plays a.o. with the Fabrice Alleman Quartet, one of Belgium's top modern jazz bands. They won the Nicolas Dor Prize at the '97 Liège Festival. In the Belgian jazz referendum organized by Belgian radios RTBF and VRT, their album "Loop the Loop" was elected Best Belgian CD of the year 1998.
The second album, "Side of Life", was widely acclaimed, too, and their appearance in 2006 at the Liège Jazz Festival with US trumpet player Randy Brecker was one of the highlights of the festival (broadcasted on RTBF tv).

In recent years, Michel Herr refocused his activities on writing (numerous compositions and arrangements), and occasionally conducting and producing. 

Glenn Branca - 1989 - Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven)

Glenn Branca 
Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven)

01. First Movement 15:57
02. Second Movement 8:07
03. Third Movement 5:22
04. Fourth Movement 4:37
05. Fifth Movement 11:52

Drums – Stephan Wischerth
Guitar – Carolyn Master, Eric Hubel, Evans Wohlforth, John Myers, Jon Bepler*, Page Hamilton, Phil Kline
Guitar, Bass – Algis Kizys
Guitar – Glenn Branca
Guitar, Keyboards – Ellen Watkins

Symphony No. 6 was commissioned by The Mass. Council For The Arts New Works Program

Glenn Branca's Symphony No. 6 is as dense, edgy, and dramatic as listeners have come to expect. Symphony No. 6 isn't a symphony in the stuffy classical sense -- it's not written for a traditional orchestra, and it doesn't obviously adhere to symphonic form. Still, the use of the term "symphony" is appropriate here, since it aptly describes the grandiosity of Branca's work. This particular symphony is scored for drums, bass, keyboard, and between eight and ten guitars. The guitars are used exclusively for texture and noise, however, not melody; the guitarists use a variety of unorthodox tunings and coax unusual sounds from their instruments. The piece's five movements typically begin rather quietly, then grow into massive noise squalls, accompanied by insistent, pounding drums. Symphony No. 6, like many of Branca's works, has one foot in the late-'70s New York no wave scene that inspired Sonic Youth, and the other in the experimentalism of late-20th century composers like Iannis Xenakis. This recording may frustrate listeners who wish Branca would just join one camp or the other, but that doesn't make his work any less powerful or evocative. Branca is one of the few avant-garde composers with the nerve to subtitle his work "Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven," and one of even fewer whose music is discordant, engrossing, and scary enough to make the listener take such a subtitle seriously.

Glenn Branca - 1985 - Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere)

Glenn Branca 
Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere)

01. 1st Movement 7:28
02. 2nd Movement 3:23
03. 3rd Movement 5:42
04. 4th Movement 7:42
05. 5th Movement (Part I) 2:29
06. 5th Movement (Part II) 3:07
07. 5th Movement (Part III) 2:58
08. 6th Movement 11:29

Bass – Dan Braun, Tim Sommer
Guitar [Harmonics Guitar] – Glenn Branca
Drums – Stephen Wischerth
Guitar – Evans Wohlforth, Jonathan Bepler, Mark Roule, Matthew Munisteri
Guitar [Mallet Guitar] – Al Arthur
Keyboards – Greg Letson
Keyboards – Miriam McDonough
Violin, Guitar – Hahn Rowe

"Symphony No.5 was Commissioned by the UCLA Center For The Performing Arts."

"Dedicated to my sister, Bonita Branca Rhodes."

Recorded at 512 West 19th St., November 1984.

Recordings of Branca's music cannot fail but do it an injustice. The purely visceral punch of his sound and the extreme effects that the overtones generate deep within one's ear (which can sound like a microscopic, though incredibly intense, devil's choir) are impossible to duplicate in recording media. Nonetheless, the listener can get something of a taste of its power through a recording such as the one at hand.

Though he once again includes a subtitle that is imbued with matters arcane ("Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere"), Symphony No. 5 actually harkens back more to Branca's earlier rock-based compositions than to more diffuse works like Symphony No. 3. Stefan Wischerth's steady drumming, which might sound leaden in other contexts, is featured prominently here and propels the 11-piece ensemble dramatically through each movement. The final section -- filled with dense, industrial thrashings and a fractured rhythm -- breaks character somewhat, bringing the piece to an unsettling close. As with several prior works, the "guitars" in question appear to be homemade models consisting of guitar strings and pickups attached to wooden planks, laid in tiers horizontally and played with mallets or sticks. By using several different tunings (all, knowing Branca's methodology, presumably related in some obscure mathematical fashion), the chords created are both complex and ambiguous, and virtually always fascinating. If there's a complaint to be lodged with this composition, perhaps it is that it comes across more as a series of individual movements and less as a whole, organic form. But those movements offer more than enough pleasures to highly recommend the album both to Branca fans and to newcomers seeking to learn about his music.

Glenn Branca - 1983 - Symphony No. 3 (Gloria)

Glenn Branca 
Symphony No. 3 (Gloria)

01. Symphony #3 (Gloria) 22:15
02. Symphony #3 (Gloria) 23:14

Amanda Linn
Arleen Schloss
Axel Gros
Barbara Ess
Craig Bromberg
Dan Witz
Greg Letson
Jeffrey Glenn
Lee Ranaldo
Margaret DeWys
Michael Gira,
Stephan Wischerth
Thurston Moore

Excerpt from a concert recorded live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, January 16th, 1983
Six keyboards used in this concert built by David Quinlan.

Branca subtitled this work as "music for the first 127 intervals of the harmonic series," and one can certainly sense a more arcane, less overtly rockish approach here than on previous releases such as The Ascension. This may also be due to the fact that, by this time, his musicians were for the most part no longer utilizing traditional (though retuned) electric guitars. Instead, homemade instruments had been created, wherein guitar strings and pickups were attached to two-by-fours that were laid in banks horizontally and played with small sticks or mallets. In performance, one interesting effect of this technique was that, through amplification, an enormous volume of sound was capable of being produced by very slight and gentle tapping of the strings.

Symphony No. 3 begins with airy, sustained chords, making their way in calm fashion through the harmonic series Branca described. They are allowed to simply hang in time -- each complex, each very beautiful on its own. After about ten minutes, high bell-like tones are introduced, the initial chords now serving as a solid ground for additional activities. Soon (one might say, inevitably), Stefan Wischerth's drums begin pounding out an insistent tattoo that evolves into a full-fledged, driving rock rhythm. As opposed to earlier works, however, the guitars maintain their cloudy harmonic attack and the result is a splendid tension. The third quarter of the composition involves the interplay of harsher, slashing chords with more turbulent and unfixed rhythms, and sets the stage beautifully for the closing section. Here, Branca returns somewhat to the form of the opening moments, but the chords now possess a dramatic respiratory quality as though the guitar orchestra itself is deeply breathing in and out. The effect is quite beautiful and brings a reflective close to one of Branca's more introspective works.

Glenn Branca / John Giorno - 1982 - Who Are You Staring at

Glenn Branca / John Giorno
Who Are You Staring at 

01. Glenn Branca Music For The Dance Bad Smells Choreographed By Twyla Tharp
02. John Giorno Stretching It Wider
03. John Giorno We Got Here Yesterday, We're Here Now, And I Can't Wait To Leave Tomorrow

Side A commissioned by the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation.

Track 1:
Guitars: Glenn Branca
Guitars: Thurston Moore
Guitars: Lee Ranaldo
Guitars: David Rosenbloom,
Guitars: Ned Sublette
Bass: Jeffrey Glenn
Drums: Stephen Wischerth

Tracks 2 & 3:
Vocals: John Giorno
Drums: David Van Tieghem
Bass: Philippe Hagen
Keyboards, synth & guitar: Pat Irwin

John Giorno (born 1935) started his Giorno Poetry Systems record label in 1972 with a series of ‘Dial-A-Poets’ LPs (see also UbuWeb for more GPS), a project he initiated in 1968 with friends William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Through GPS Giorno has championned a kind of DIY spoken word poetry embarking cut-ups, performance, rock guitar and electronic rhythms. If Burroughs foundness for tape recorder and tape splicing delights is well known, his relationship to rock appears a bit cynical and un-sincere. Giorno, on the other hand, was part of that Downtown scene where so many things had been happening since the 1960s – from Cage and Rauschenberg to No Wave frenzy. But chances are he envisionned rock music as a suitable medium for his poetry in the same way he used telephone to spread his poems. There’s pragmatism at work here. Some of the guests musicians on Glenn Branca‘s track appeared on his monumental ‘The Ascension’ LP on 99 Records published the year before (1981): Stephan Wischerth, David Rosenbloom, Ned Sublette and Lee Ranaldo. I more or less expected monolithic guitar walls, but this soundtrack to a dance performance is quite varied and structured into various moments, including sudden rhythm changes (at 8:15), quiet guitar feedback drones (at 11;30) alternating with fierce guitar parts, while drums are a prominent feature throughout. The whole track is very well conceived and entertaining from start to finish. The John Giorno side has 2 tracks of poetry reading along heavy beats. The poems are deliberately matter-of-fact and delivered in the typical Giorno high pitched voice. Nice slice of Downtown avant-whatever.

The aggressively titled Who You Staring At? is a split LP, one side each for Glenn Branca and poet John Giorno, on whose label it was issued. The side-long Branca composition was written to accompany a dance choreographed by Twyla Tharp and is performed by an ensemble essentially the same as that on his first release, The Ascension, with the addition of future Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore. The piece bolts out of the gate with rich guitar fanfares hurtling over a rampaging rhythmic base. For much of the first half of the it's as exciting as anything on that first album but midway through, perhaps in response to choreographic needs, it lurches to a halt. For the remainder of the work, Branca utilizes an awkward semi-funk rhythm with splintered guitar chords that fail to hold the listener's ear, especially after the promise of the initial section.

On his two pieces, Giorno declaims in his bitter, sardonic style over a fairly basic funk trio. His observations on the aggravating rigors of daily life (as evinced by the title to the second song) often hit home and, to make sure, Giorno has a habit of repeating them several times in the manner of a gospel preacher hammering home a point. If lines like, "I'm spendin' my whole life being with people I don't want to be with" strike home, you may warm to his attitude.

For Branca fans, this LP is worth owning for the partial pleasures of his track. Listeners interested in discovering his work might be better served by The Ascension or one of his later "symphonies."

Glenn Branca - 1982 - Symphony No. 2 (The Peak of the Sacred)

Glenn Branca 
Symphony No. 2 (The Peak of the Sacred)

01. First Movement (Slow Mass) 22:19
02. Second Movement (Radioactive Poltergeist Kitchen) 19:45
03. Third Movement (Melodrama And Nuclear Physics In The Global Theater) 18:38
04. Fourth Movement (Sacred Field) 10:27
05. Fifth Movement (In The Late 20th Century The Impossible Becomes Possible) 2:18

Recorded live at St. Mark's Church, NYC on May 14, 1982.

Bass – Jeffrey Glenn
Bass Drum, Percussion – Z'ev
Conductor, Guitar, Tape [Harmonics Guitars On Tape] – Glenn Branca
Drums, Cymbal, Arranged By [Trap Set Arrangements] – Stephan Wischerth
Guitar – Barbara Ess
Guitar – Craig Bromberg
Guitar – Lee Ranaldo
Guitar – Robert Harrison
Guitar – Sue Hanel
Guitar –  Thurston Moore
Guitar [Mallet], Bass Drum – Al Arthur
Guitar [Mallet], Bass Drum – David Linton

Throughout the 1980s -- following his breakthrough work Indeterminate Activity of Resultant Masses -- Glenn Branca began composing a series of 10 large-scale symphonies, which includes the present work, Symphony No. 2, "The Peak of the Sacred." Branca followed a steady (some critics would say static) course, composing resonant, clangorous soundscapes of almost imponderable density and length, which hit their stride early, swell to maximum volume, then stay at a high level of intensity for over an hour with little relaxation. Yet there is a difference between Branca on CD and Branca in performance, and much is lost in the reproduction. In live settings, one is able to appreciate the unpredictable but intended interplay of overtones and acoustics, and the physical presence of Branca's mallet guitarists and percussionists adds considerably to the music's power and sense of space. On disc, the results are flatter and too much is left to the imagination. Even for a work as cosmic in mood and scope as the Symphony No. 2, this live recording fails to capture Branca's full range of sonorities and subtly changing textures, and the listener may feel the music is boxed-in and less than magnificent. While the work itself is daring and bracing, and worth the attention of adventurous listeners, the sound is problematic and disappointing.

Glenn Branca - 1983 - Symphony No. 1 (Tonal Plexus)

Glenn Branca 
Symphony No. 1 (Tonal Plexus)

01. Movement 1 11:45
02. Movement 2 15:45
03. Movement 3 17:29
04. Movement 4 10:09

Baritone Guitar, Bass, Percussion – Barbara Ess
Baritone Guitar, Guitar – David Rosenbloom
Drums, Percussion – Stephan Wischerth
French Horn – Margot Zvaleko
Guitar – Glenn Branca
Guitar – Lee Ranaldo
Guitar – Robert Harrison
Guitar – Ned Sublette
Guitar – Thurston Moore
Guitar – Craig Bromberg
Keyboards – Gail Vachon
Keyboards, Guitar, Percussion – Wharton Tiers
Keyboards, Percussion – Ann DeMarinis
Tenor Saxophone – Fritz Van Orden
Trumpet – Richard Edson
Trumpet, Horns – Dave Buk

Subtitled: "Music in Four Movements for Multiple Guitars, Keyboards, Brass and Percussion."

Live set recorded July 18-19, 1981 at the Performing Garage, 33 Wooster Street, Soho, NYC.
Originally released as a cassette (ROIR, #A-125, 1983).

If Beethoven,Bach, and Bartok were around in the late twentieth century, they would have used the fashionable instruments of the day,and reflected the world around them in sound? I would have loved to see what Bach could have come up with when confronted with a Modular Moog system for example. Also of course they would have had to live their lives as a 20th century person,to absorb all the influences ,sophistications and neuroses of late modern man.

It would,of course , now read as Beethoven, Bach,Bartok and Branca. A kind of Crosby,Stills, Nash and Young of the neo-classical,except without the cocaine fuelled blandness of those Laurel Canyon numpties.

Branca,is a true modern classicist,using the symbolic instrumentation of his age, electricity,guitars and the drum kit, to recreate the dissonant noise of the city. The constant drone of the traffic,the rhythmic noise of the production line, and the Doppler effect of passing sirens. There are sequences that recreate the paranoia and fear of the Cold War era in which this was written, as massed electric guitars sound like a thousand approaching planes and missiles raining warheads on a doomed civilisation; if civilisation applies to what humanity has created for itself?

Symphony Number One,is the best Branca symphony in my humble opinion,featuring all his old chums, Lee Renaldo,Thurston Moore,Barbara Ess,and Wharton Teirs. It retains the excitement of his early work, holding onto the urgency of its rock roots,without becoming indulgent,as happens in later works. Also,its Lo-Fi recording quality adds to the authenticity of genuine classical music that has its roots on the streets rather than some stuffy conservatoire in Salzburg.

Branca's first symphony is a massive behemoth of guitars, noise and alternate tunings with players that include the Theoretical Girls' Wharton Tiers and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. The first movement begins with a distant groan, like some Aboriginal folk music. By the time the thundering drums begin, the sound has become as grand and immovable is the monolith from 2001. Branca's brilliance lies in his merger of rock and roll with 20th century classical, as well as his ability to create rumbling, careening crescendos into infinity. This 1981 recording shows the roots of everything from Sonic Youth to Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Mogwai, Merzbow and the Boredoms to Black Dice and Lightning Bolt - even post rock groups like Tortoise and Sigur Ros - just listen to the ambient, repetitive pulsing of the second movement. Always defiant, always challenging, Branca's Symphony No. 1 is one of the most raucous and inspiring compositions of the late 20th century.

Glenn Branca - 1981 - The Ascension

Glenn Branca 
The Ascension

01. Lesson No.2 4:59
02. The Spectacular Commodity 12:41
03. Structure 3:00
04. Lightfield (In Consonance) 8:17
05. The Ascension 13:10

Bass – Jeffrey Glenn
Drums – Stephan Wischerth
Guitar – David Rosenbloom
Guitar – Glenn Branca
Guitar – Lee Ranaldo
Guitar – Ned Sublette

If one chooses to categorize the music on this recording as "rock," this is surely one of the greatest rock albums ever made. But there's the rub. While sporting many of the trappings of the genre -- the instrumentation (electric guitars), the rhythms, the volume, and, most certainly, the attitude -- there is much about The Ascension that doesn't fit comfortably into the standard definition of the term. Not only does the structure of the compositions appear to owe more to certain classical traditions, including Romanticism, than the rock song form, but Branca's overarching concern is with the pure sound produced, particularly of the overtones created by massed, "out of tune," excited strings and the ecstatic quality that sound can engender in the listener. Though his prior performing experience was with post-punk, no-wave groups like the Static and Theoretical Girls, it could be argued that the true source of much of the music here lies in the sonic experimentation of deep-drone pioneers like La Monte Young and Phil Niblock.

Happily, the music is accessible enough that one can jump right in, regardless of one's direction of approach. Branca's band, unlike some of his later enormous ensembles, is relatively modest (four guitars, bass guitar, and drums), so the sound is comparatively clear and each member's contributions may be easily discerned. The chiming notes that begin "The Spectacular Commodity" are allowed to hover in the air, awash in overtones, before being subsumed into a rolling groove that picks up more and more intensity as guitar chords cascade one atop another, threatening to, but never succeeding in, toppling the whole affair. "Structure" plays with sonic torque, whipsawing between two differently stressed voicings of the same theme, pulling them back and forth like taffy.

But the title track is both the consummation of the record and the surest indication of Branca's direction in later years. It begins with a marvelously dense haze of ringing guitars, feedback, and percussion, with a foreboding bassline contributing to the strong sense of disorientation. Midway through, it abruptly shifts to harsh blocks of sound over a rapid rhythm, the blocks differing in texture but played in alternating sections, smacking into each other and further heightening the tension. These disparate sounds eventually coalesce into a pure, ringing tone that, over the last minute of the piece, explodes into a spectacular cacophony, a seism of bell tones, microtonal eruptions, and near orgasmic guitar bliss. An absolutely stunning, jaw-dropping performance.

Branca's music has served as a major inspiration to many alternative rock bands that surfaced in the '80s and '90s, notably Sonic Youth; both Lee Ranaldo (who plays on this recording) and Thurston Moore were regularly members of his early ensembles. The Ascension, in addition to being an utterly superb album on its own merits, uniquely invites listening from both adventurous rock fans and aficionados of experimental electronic music. For years, the vinyl release on 99 Records, with its stunning cover illustration by Robert Longo, was a highly sought-after collector's item. It was finally issued to compact disc in 1999 by New Tone.

Abrasive. Unrelenting. Euphoric. Those are just some taglines that come to mind when thinking of the significance of Ascension. Occasionally there's select cases in my library where the less I know of an artist, or the work that came before or after, the better. There's no denying Glenn Branca will fall into that category, especially given the totality displayed on his opus. I needn't hear anything else the man has composed, as they'll likely only diminish the impact Ascension sets. It is an album that lives on its own plateau, a five-track collection of sensations cued up to the fall, or rise, of civilization. Like many works that attempt the same feat, Post-Rock being a prominent genre where you can find them, Ascension leaves the reaction to the listener. Like Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Lift Your Skinny Fists, I never know whether I'm supposed to cry from joy or defeat. Each extreme is taken and used simultaneously, and in Branca's case, swelling arrangements are created that fail to clue you in on the direction they're taking. One moment we're being lifted, the next we're being crushed. Ascension thrives because it exposes how entangled emotions really are. All this with some rather ordinary drums and guitars.

Ascension's release in 1980 serves as a marker for the future direction a handful of Rock genres would take, even though they themselves likely attributed the primal aggression to the Post-Punk scene imploding at the time. Nonetheless, artists like Swans, Sonic Youth, or GY!BE, owe a lot to the maddening creation Branca conjured up. Especially in the former's case, as Swans' entire discography, spanning four decades, separated by three clear generations, finds a common lineage in Ascension. The brutality of their early No Wave era, the beauty of their middle Gothic Rock era, the droning torment of their last Experimental Rock era. It's all here, all captured within 43 pulverizing minutes. It doesn't start like that though, as 'Lesson No. 2' introduces the LP as a sloppy mess of artsy fartsy freestyle jamming that fails to outline the oncoming exaltation. Of the five songs featured on Ascension, three exceed the eight-minute mark, and thankfully for our listening pleasure, that's where Branca's vision excels. 'Lesson No.2's' aimless dribble and 'Structure's' wedged positioning cause their moments to amount to little more than minimal mood setting and noise fodder.

However, just as the fear of 'Lesson No.2' as a 12-minute track sets in (an exact occurrence that happened multiple times on Swans' ear-curdling To Be Kind), 'The Spectacular Commodity' quells that anxiety with a momentous rise to the heavens. It's Ascension's best track, and one that's precisely defined by the title it holds. That's not instantly apparent though, as the drudge of death, the suffering of pain, the exposure of the grotesque, all necessary evils on the flight upwards. We must past the filth, endure the pain, to achieve rapture. Two-thirds of the way through and you know 'The Spectacular Commodity's' building to something, but Ascension hasn't shown us what yet. Then, a twist of fate occurs with some sublime guitar work that lingers under the intense drums. What was once dark and ominous has turned bright and hopeful, all without a single notable change in pacing. It is a sensational moment, and one that'll forever remain in my memory. All praise to Branca, he didn't just leave us with that tiny taste of glory. 'Structure,' in its fleeting state, returns us to clamor of denizens, but immediately after that 'Light Field (In Consonance)' emerges as a great ball of celestial fire. Eight unrelenting minutes of pound-for-pound joy through ravenous ecstasy. Here, we don't suffer. Here, we're given the full three-course meal at the Last Supper.

What Ascension does so well, and it's something not expressed outright, is its perception of various ways to ascend. In music circles, that's typically seen as the momentous build of power to inevitable release. Aka the Post-Rock formula. That's what 'The Spectacular Commodity' provides us with. It is the pinnacle of that approach, much like Lift Your Skinny Fist's first six minutes of reverie. However, in each instance elsewhere, ascension is achieved through various means. 'Structure' rips you from your confined body like bullets to the heart, 'Light Field' engulfs you with excessive triumphant force, 'Ascension' strips the shimmering promise leaving reality in its wake. The 13-minute title track rears the head of Totalism like no other, pressing down on the listener with increasingly vexed force. There is no light here, no hope, no assurance. That's not to say heaven's out of reach, just that following your last dying breath, the breakneck ascension to the stars will likely be filled with discordance, not harmony. Noise, scrapping by your earlobes, tearing them to shreds, sounds more likely than a string of angels coordinating a symphony for your welcome party. You are but one of billions sent to ascend. You are not special, but life is. That's what Glenn Branca shows us.