The epic, album-length suite ?Clouds of Granite in A Clearing Sky? opens the debut release from this Black 47 side project, featuring Mike Fazio (electricity) and Thomas Hamlin (percussive noises). The first movement ?Dreamland? is a musical interpretation of the series of electrical shocks our neurons have assembled which ultimately create our dream images. It?s a novel approach ? using electronics and circuit bending to emulate the physical chemical reactions in the brain, thus creating perhaps the world?s first form of ?brainwave music? and is perhaps the closest thing to having electrodes attached to Fazio?s brain to create his own musical EEG from the resulting soundwaves. This dude must have some dark dreams, as the music is a very metallic, industrialized collection of scratchy bleeps and bloops that suggests he watches a lot of horror movies. For example, this would make a perfect imaginary soundtrack to Richard Stanley?s 1990 cult classic, ?Hardware.? The result is 20+ minutes of bubbling cauldrons, razor-sharp buzzsaws, metal-on-steel mental sword fights, crackling open circuits of electrical energy all supported by Hamlin?s syncopated, pounding heartbeat rhythms. Imagine, if you will, running the collective EEGs and EKGs of our dynamic duo through the mixing desk and recording the results and you?re in the ballpark, or should I say laboratory. This, of course, is not something you are going to toss on during a dinner party with the in-laws, but it does make for some fascinating listening and interpretation in the privacy of your own sleep chamber.
The pair?s dreams are interrupted by the second movement ?Starstreams,? which, as expected, is a realization of the interpretation of the sound that stars make as they streak across the night sky. It?s both expansive and empty, ominous and stark, and, well, spacey! And since the album was created at the Luna County Observatory, one can surmise that the compositions were born out of instantaneous observation of the night sky ? sort of a ?spontaneous soundtrack? to the movement of the night sky in much the same way that several artists have recently been providing imaginary, improvisational soundtracks to silent films, such as Hilkka?s soundtrack to Jodorowsky?s ?Holy Mountain,? Christina Carter (Charalambides)?s soundtrack to Man Ray?s ?L'Etoile de Mer,? or Confession and Recantation (featuring members of Salamander and Skye Klad)?s live accompaniment to the screening of Dreyer?s ?The Passion of Joan of Arc? at the College of St. Catherine in Minnesota last April.
Our intrepid travelers? adventure floats to an end as the third movement, ?The Sky Opens Below? flutters by as the image of the track?s title is perfectly realised in this soft, weightless journey on the back of a cumulus cloud.
?Slick-O-Matic? could just as easily have been called ?Stick-O-Matic,? as it?s basically a 10-minute drum solo with musical accompaniment. It amply showcases Hamlin?s chops, but may alienate the non-drummers in the aurdience. But overall, this is an engaging electronic album that deftly mixes funky dance grooves (a la ?The Sound You Make When You Reach For Tomorrow?) with more experimental electrical circuitry that should be of interest to fans of such circuit-bending classics as Sonic Boom?s ?Data Rape,? the work of Reed Ghazala, and the eclectic collection of home-made instruments rattling around inside the ?Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones? and ?Orbitones, Spoonharps and Bellowphones? compilations. 7/10 -- Jeff Penczak (28 June, 2006)