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.
Musicians: Cory Allen: Piano, Mike Vernusky: Bowed Classical Guitar, Nick Hennies: Bowed and Struck Vibraphone, Brent Fariss: Double Bass, Henna Chou: Cello
The Great Order: A: Movement I: 17:53; B: Movement II: 15:38
I enjoy listening to the Quiet Design podcasts with Cory Allen and Mike Vernusky (available free through iTunes). They discuss observations on art, the world around, how music affects them and their sources of inspiration as well as the musicians and artists they interview, to date: Lawrence English, Simon Scott, Duane Pitre, Taylor Deupree, Sun Hammer, Wide Sky and others. The topics are wide-ranging, often very entertaining and thought provoking. I also appreciate the reflective consideration that Cory Allen brings to the development of his work, and to his experimentation with instrumentation (extant and invented).
From the first sedate piano note of The Great Order, to the almost shy conversation between guitar, vibraphone, cello, and double bass, there is a respectful and somber discipline, a regimen to this largo in two movements. It is evident that there is a prescribed yet restrained foundation to this all-acoustic instrumental work. This is an album about relationships and exploration: the musicians to their instruments, the instruments with each other and how the sounds sustain and resonate both in the recording and ultimately in the listening space (or headphones) and the ears of the listener. No one instrument dominates, and it’s as much about the spaces between the music as it is about the sound. The first movement is somewhat hushed, and the second movement has a slightly increased density of statement-response and layering among the instruments. This is an album that also cleanses the mind and encourages contemplation. The recording has a clarity and live presence that feels as if one is sitting in the room with the musicians, making it all the more intimate.
The album art and design are by Cory Allen, who has done an impeccable job with the entire package (the covers printed by Stumptown Printers in Portland, Oregon). The limited edition LP is pressed in translucent clear vinyl. Also, in conjunction with the release of The Great Order, Cory Allen has issued an LP version of his serene, beautiful and introspective album Pearls (from late 2010). The first 100 copies of Pearls are pressed in white vinyl and 400 copies in black vinyl. For a limited time, both LPs can be purchased at a special price from the Quiet Design website. I’m also looking forward to Cory Allen’s ongoing experiments with his recently created multi-stringed instrument (a sound sample is below).
Pearls: A: Strange Birds, Lost Energizer 17:09; B: Isozaki Clouds, Blue Eyes 18:52