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    A Glance at Tony Conrad

    Tony Conrad + Alex Gelencser, 1998
    Tony Conrad and Alex Gelencser, 1998.

    The early bird, I mean minimalist catches, I mean gets the worm, I mean word in edgewise–or actually a lot of words in all over the lengthy liner notes of numerous LPs and CDs. Tony Conrad with Faust - Outside the Dream Syndicate Tony Conrad is one such large, flightless bird. From 1962 to 1965, he played violin in minimalist music founder La Monte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music group, also known as the Dream Syndicate, which included La Monte and Marian Zazeela on drone vocals, John Cale on viola and Angus MacLise on percussion. Since La Monte’s been keeping the tapes “safe” in storage since the mid ’60s–for the most part denying access and copies to the other group members and the public at large–very few people outside of the original small audiences have ever heard what must have surely been the most searing, transporting drone music of all time. Practicing regularly, the group developed into the most awesome unit of 4:00 a.m. hover power. Perfect pitch, just intonation, long durations and massive amplification of the vocals, viola and percussion to tympanic membrane-cutting levels were some of the ingredients of this galaxy hub-bound stew.

    Tony Conrad - Slapping Pythagoras

    Tony Conrad stepped outside the Dream Syndicate one time on December 19, 1964, when he recorded four overdubbed tracks of supremely grating violin screech drone of the highest kind–just the most visceral veils of undulating reality sparkle you could ever dream of floating through. Released as Four Violins by Table of the Elements in 1996 and a year later as a CD in the four-disc box set Early Minimalism, the 32 minutes of music is easily available and awaits your next long evening spent laying around at home, wrapped up in a fuzzy blankie while sipping hot cocoa. The Early Minimalism box set also includes three other CDs of recordings from 1994-96 made with Alexandria Gelencser on cello, Jim O’Rourke on violin and others that attempts to “reconstitute and re-project the lost dream music of the original Theatre of Eternal Music.” Tony Conrad - Four Violins Also enclosed is an enhanced CD with interviews and performance footage, plus a 96-page booklet of vintage archival photos and brain-hurting notes.

    After leaving the the Theatre of Eternal Music in 1965, Tony Conrad’s next recording wasn’t made until 1972, when he teamed up with krautrock group Faust for the Outside the Dream Syndicate LP on Caroline, which was reissued on CD in 1994 by Table of the Elements. Splaying his violin drone fabrics over the slow and precise metronome-like rhythmic foundation of Faust, Tony helped launch hundreds of late-night bedroom journeys in better-knowing homes across several continents. As if all that weren’t enough, Tony also recorded a new work in 1994–his first in 22 years–called Slapping Pythagoras, which is the thickest, warmest shawl of buzzing drone music you could ever desire to cuddle up and dream inside. Tony Conrad - Early Minimalism Containing two long, stunning slabs of beauty, it’s filled to the brim with layers of violin, guitar, bass, accordion, cello and bass clarinet all wailing away. It also features Jim O’Rourke working the weed trimmer and David Grubbs supplying an occasional low-end thud via pillow. Yes, pillow. What have you been up to? Slapping Pythagoras is the slowest rotating spiral arm in this or any other galaxy. It’s so good, I feel like slapping Conrad…on the ass.

    More: Hyper Real, MySpace, Official, Wikipedia

    Note: This article originally appeared in Arcane Candy Issue 1 in the year 2000.

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