Tower Recordings "The Futuristic Folk of the Tower Recordings Vols. 1 & 2"
It?s never been easy to define exactly what the Tower Recordings are?is. Was? Each release under the name Tower Recordings bears the mark of a singular vision, the vision of a group, a group of individuals. Their music can be found on a few different labels, usually in limited editions, and they don?t stay available for long. Some Tower Recordings have been self-released, like the music on this Time Lag double vinyl reissue of two Child of Microtones CDR?s. The approach and aesthetic of the Tower Recordings has been incredibly influential, especially considering the limited quantity and availability of the music that has been released. Tower Recordings were the first American ?indie? group that worked in a strictly psychedelic folk dimension. Now, there are many. Modern psychedelic folk musicians worldwide , like Finland?s Kemialliset Ystavat, seem to look directly to the Tower Recordings for inspiration in their home recorded sound universe.
The music on "The Futuristic Folk" is very spacious and mellow, even when compared to other albums by Tower Recordings. The first song, ?Moonward,? begins with some metal percussion tapping out a slow rhythm while synthesizer chirps and trills fade in and out of the song, until a gorgeous guitar-based melody emerges through the sonic chaos. Much of the two record set sounds huge and cavernous, as if it were recorded in a large, empty music hall, like the one depicted in the beautifully silk-screened jacket front. Vocals are difficult to distinguish in the often cacophonous mix of sounds in the songs, while lyrics are almost completely non-existent. If the music of this double album was compared to the singular efforts by members of the Tower Recordings, it could be said that it resembles the free-form ragas of Matt Valentine (MV) much more closely than the folk-rock of Pat Gubler (PG Six). Individual personalities don?t really shine through on these compositions, though, and the group sounds united in a singular vision of the folk of the future. Although, the music sounds more like the folk of another planet, or perhaps the moon.
One of the most perplexing songs of the set, ?Principles of the Children,? features all the members playing percussion instruments (one of them seems to be shaking his/her house keys fervently) while a distant voice repeatedly intones ?Come and join our tribe, cause we have all the children.? It?s certainly the least engaging moment on the record, and it?s also the only song with decipherable lyrics. The end of Vol 2 contains some very loose and stoned sounding jams with the most abrasive electric guitar playing to be found on a Tower Recordings album. Both discs of the album (particularly Vol 2, though) are covered with a rather stoned haze which makes it more appropriate for late-night meditation than, say, listening at work or while jogging.
It was rumored that this would be the last Tower Recordings release. It is known that the group has disbanded and are pursuing other creative ventures. However, an upcoming September 2004 release from the group is listed on the discography at the MV and EE Medicine Show homepage. The "Futuristic Folk" album is almost completely unavailable at this point. There are probably better entry points to the music of the Tower Recordings for the uninitiated ("Folk Scene" or "Furniture Music for Evening Shuttles"), but long time fans will definitely want to have this in their collection. 8/10 -- Sean Witzman (25 May, 2005)