This is in many ways an excellent album, but in many ways a vague one; while it expresses something moving, it seems to never go deeply beneath the emotional surface to express something profound, the album producing few indelible moments in the listener’s consciousness – although it does occasionally have such moments, for example in album’s the last several minutes, which are strikingly beautiful.
A collaboration between Charlemagne Palestine – who will be known to Foxy Digitalis readers as a brilliant composer whose use of drone as a way of producing a meditative state in the listener is masterful – and Janek Schaefer – who readers will also be familiar with as a prolific collagist of field recordings and composer of music concrete – the two long pieces here each play to both of the artists’ styles in a unique way.
The first of the two, “Raga de L’apres midi pour Aude,” sounds more in the style of Palestine’s work, incorporating long-form drones; the second leans more toward Schaefer’s, with the use of field recordings coming to the foreground before retreating into an organ drone, and then emerging in an open, airy musical space of chiming bells, rustling trees and cinematic glimpses of an overheard conversation that shift into quiet melodica chords (by far one of the best sections of the album).
The collaboration between Palestine and Schaefer is a brilliant one because of the nature of each composer’s vision; from an artistic viewpoint, drone and musique concrete are some of the absolutely most interesting forms of art, in that both combine a cerbrality and sense of intellectuality that takes place within the overarching structure of unconsciousness and emotional expression of sound and harmony that is a central facet of music. In this way the instrumentation and the feeling produced by the musicians is remarkably expressive: on the first of the two 20-minute pieces, droning harmonium and tolling bells and wavering harmonies produce a feeling of broken-heartedness in one’s chest; building vocals that glide along the single organ note; on the second, field recordings and eerie, close-harmony organ notes in jarring discord build on one another, and are effortlessly placed together.
The strength of this album is in its artistic wholeness, in the harmony of Palestine’s and Schaefer’s ideas – it is executed with a strong emotional parallel between form and content. The criticisms that can be given to the album are all relative to the excellence of both artists’ work here (the best use of drone I’ve personally heard is on Palestine’s Four Manifestations on Six Elements, for example, an album that of course gained wider attention through its inclusion on Alan Licht’s Minimal Top Ten list, and which manages as a work of art to seamlessly weld Eastern and Western classical musical elements into utterly beautiful pieces of music – in a foremost sense by using a grand piano to create linear repetitions of certain harmonies).
In this way the pieces mix very well and are both moving works of art, but again, the transcendent moments here are few, and while this is an impressive and moving record, it still in sum seems to lack an emotional breakthrough.