CD PR025 time: 40:53 (Also available as an LP, first 100 copies on coke clear vinyl)
1) Divine Waves – 12:11 2) White Wings – 8:53 3) Neon Mandalas – 6:58 4) Crown Canal – 12:48
Cory Allen: Hammond Organ, Harmonium, Tanpura, Rhodes Electric Piano, Violin, Voice, Mbira, Balalaika, Tibetan Singing Bowl, Gong, Tingsha Bells, Chinese Bells, Balinese Nut Shell Shaker
With Brent Fariss: Bass, Henna Chou: Cello and Lyman Hardy: Drums and Percussion
Preorder link: http://www.punctumrecords.com/shop/coryallen-thesource
Without any prior guided experience to an astral realm of enlightenment, I feel a bit underqualified in commenting on certain aspects that may have influenced or inspired this album, but I feel perfectly at ease in speaking on the restorative nature of music, meditation and private contemplation. The mind is often so pre-occupied with distractions that thoughts become fragmented, confused, and the ability to concentrate is diminished—so at times a realignment is in order. Cory Allen’s new album, The Source provides a gentle yet intensive framework to cleanse the mind and re-focus awareness. In tech-speak: defragmenting the hard drive.
The Source, I think, is both a reflection of Allen’s own achievement of radial balance and self-unity, as well as a sonic guide for others to experience. With repeated auditions of the album, awareness of both the individual instrumentation and the gestalt of the overall effect of the work increases. For those less familiar with Cory Allen’s oeuvre, and before listening, an important aspect to keep in mind, is to suspend conventional expectations of musical structure and melody, and allow oneself to be drawn into the experience of both listening and feeling the sounds in the recording. Also, Allen’s work often uses a loosely rules-based construction including guided improvisation.
Divine Waves slow-dances on the edge of something resembling a liquid jazz with the initial two, three and four note phrases exchanging between cymbals and bass (plucked and later bowed). A tanpura joins the ensemble and its whirr is sustained by merging with the bass, cymbals, and chiming of inter-mingled bells and bowls. I hesitate to say that the cello is a later mournful addition to the group, yet it adds a wistful calm with an electric piano gently weaving throughout. The instrumentation in the latter part of Divine blends into a soft vibrating drone and is as much about the sound heard, as well as the interaction of the vibrations being felt (to experience this, I recommend listening with well-placed speakers at a volume roughly equivalent to match the original live sound of the instruments versus using headphones).
Initially focusing on the interplay of two and four notes phrases on a balalaika, White Wings’ bowed cello and bass, drums and harmonium absorb and weave while stretching varying dissonances. A first sonic alignment appears at a little more than two-and-a-half minutes, before meandering many times again with loose guidance (visually, like a flock of migrating swallows as they gather in the autumn, at sundown, seeking a resting place for the night).
The most intensive experience on the album is within Neon Mandalas; initially there is a chorus of deeply toned voices (which I think should have extended even longer), and once held in that realm, other elements are introduced with their fleeting movements (percussion, drums, bass and tanpura). A choir of gently plucked Mbiras (like a gentle steady rain) and bells provides a sonic background for an emergent and focused organ that dissolves into a returning familiar plucked acoustic bass phrase—a sort of arrival.
Crown Canal seems to represent a departure, reflecting on the fullness of the experience. The cello has a somewhat somber recurrent melody, reminiscent of a recessional or postlude, and has a tonality of resolution within a duo of a harmonium and tanpura. The ensemble is gently punctuated with percussion and voices. Despite being the longest piece on the album it has a curious absorptive quality, which compresses a sense of time, while achieving a state of steady entrancement.
The more I have listened to this album, it seems there is a general framework describing Allen’s own experience—the album appears to be a journey in four parts, describing what I interpret as: preparation, journey, arrival and return. The recording and mastering achieves a profound clarity and realism that I have come to know in Cory Allen’s previous albums, The Great Order and Pearls that feel as if the listener is within the environment where the music is being created.
The Source will be released on June 30th, 2015.
More on Cory Allen’s previous albums that I have reviewed can be found here.
The vinyl version of The Source–beautiful color!
This is a solicited review.
Available as CD TRS053 in Digipak (150 copies) and a deluxe limited version (75 copies) Time: 40:37
Tracks: 1) The Hermit, 2) Ricordo, 3) Sator, 4) Come Un Immenso Specchio D’inverno, 5) The Liquid Room, 6) Mountain, 7) Camino
Memories get tucked away in our minds and emerge at unexpected moments; their return prompted by any of the senses, especially sound. Spazio Sacro (translation: Sacred Space) is a personal journey of Giulio Aldinucci’s time and recollections in and near his native village in the Tuscany region of Italy, where observances and sacred rites have occurred for centuries. It also appears there could be differing perspectives in this album, perhaps not just those of Aldinucci.
Giulio Aldinucci initially released three albums under the moniker of Obsil, and two albums since 2012 using his own name (Tarsia in 2012 on Nomadic Kids Republic label and the recent Aer on the Dronarivm label), as well as other side projects like his Postcards from Italy collaboration with Attilio Novellino (an album, live event and special gallery installation in London). His work travels fluidly between silence, edge of consciousness and crystalline lucidity.
I can speculate on whether a composition is a first or third person experience (as in The Hermit, which seems to start as an outdoor morning awakening, as a village returns to life), but it is clear when the memory is more personal and intimate, as in Ricordo. Initially, an observer in motion, traveling and then arriving. Eventually, there is slow movement through spaces, made apparent by different sounds passing by, entering and departing. Some sound images are clear and seem more recent, whereas those more distant in time are fleeting, layered and translucent (perhaps the memories less tangible and accessible with time). Yet, there is a sense of comfort in tradition and the sacred, heightened with choral voices.
Quiet moments are sometimes interrupted, from the initial reverie. Distractions enter and overpower the quietude of the moment in Sator. The chill of a season is evoked in Come Un Immenso Specchio D’inverno, while at the seaside with people nearby, where the winds and cold water can be heard. Liquid Room is the most ethereal, drifting in and out of choral passages and reverberant organ. There is also a peregrinating motion in this piece, as if wandering to seek a sonic focus which emerges at a little over three minutes in, before gently releasing its energy to silence.
Giulio Aldinucci at the Museo dell Antica Grancia in 2012 – Photo by Marco Masti
Mountain, while being from an experience of Aldinucci’s, instantly brought back a personal memory of a train trip that I took from Milan to Lausanne in the late 1980s, a rather bizarre experience passing from the northern Italian landscape by rail, then disappearing into a mountain, only to emerge on the other side in a completely altered countryside with buildings looking so different. It is in Mountain where the field recordings are absolutely vivid (some of the best I’ve ever heard in how they blend with the music). I actually found myself turning my head in my listening space to look for the source of some of the sounds, and to check if the birds that I was hearing was due to a window that I had left open—effectively deceptive in the transparency, recording and mastering of the album. The most curious and somewhat perplexing is the last track, Camino—I’m not sure if the title is a location (as in near Venice?). The title also translates to different things, depending on the language—and so, we have a mystery…sometimes music needs a conundrum. There is a strange rhythmically liquid sound mixed with periodic buzzing and a distant ship’s whistle, as well as cascading voices.
A common and most pleasant thread in Spazio Sacro is the recurrent appearance of gentle choruses and distant peaceful tones resembling a church organ, something that I have always found comforting, with or without a liturgical connection. Giulio Aldinucci’s work evokes a strong and clear sense of the places and times that occupy the memory chambers in his life, and the traditions at the heart of those recollections are timeless.
Photo of the Deluxe Edition
This is a solicited review.