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    Alvin Curran – Maritime Rites

    Alvin Curran has been working since the 1960s as both a composer and a performer of improvised music. In 1966, he was a founding member of the legendary Musica Elettronica Viva, who along with England’s AMM, were one of the very first free improv groups. Originally recorded in 1984–but not released on CD until 2004–Maritime Rites is a collection of masterful works for live instruments and field recordings from the United States Eastern seaboard. During “World Music,” which opens disc one, Leo Smith burps, blats, coughs up shrill spittles and holds up some held tones high into the sky on the appropriately named seal horn in the company of foghorns and boat horns.

    Pauline Oliveros melds her barely audible ornate accordion runs on “Rattlesnake Mountain” as the only female lighthouse keeper in the U.S. speaks above a phalanx of whistle buoys, three-tone gongs and foghorns. Back down on the “Coastline,” Steve Lacy laces his rather trad-sounding melodic sax through layers of overdubbed foghorns while some Coast Guard guys tell stories. Clark Coolidge reads poetry over foghorns in “Mine” while his dad Arlan tells stories. Dense layers of spoken word is the result. “Improvisation” finds Joseph Celli offering up some high-pitched cries and shrill wheedling on reeds, English horn and mukha veena as plovers, loons, peepers, frogs and a bell buoy sing along. Over on the “Soft Shoulder,” Jon Gibson avoids blocking traffic as he shuts down disc one with a little melodic soprano sax built up into layers of Terry Riley-like delay with foghorns, and splashing water.

    Malcom Goldstein busts open disc two with some incredibly fervent, minimal violin sawing and raspy string scraping during “From Center of Rainbow, Sounding.” An old salt joins in to tell stories as a gaggle of bell buoys, foghorns, seals and eider ducks go off in the background. This track is simply music at its best. The second track in this collection to brandish the title “Improvisation” finds George Lewis producing weird animal cries on trombone as Anthony Braxton repeatedly recites five words and Captain Ken Black gives a tour of the Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine. Joining them are a deep, two-tone foghorn, a whistle buoy, and various and sundry motor boats, deep animal moans, oinks and squawks. This track and the following one are easily the most experimental-sounding of the bunch.

    Next in line, John Cage recites the five words “Ice, Dew, Crew, Food, Ape,” which is also the title of this piece. His words are layered with each other and a really deep foghorn, a ship horn, a lighthouse horn and a mysterious, distant quivering sound. The grand finale, “Maritime Rites,” was composed by Alvin Curran all by himself. This 23-minute epic starts out sparse with bell buoys, a chorus of ship horns, splashing water, and ever-thickening foghorns mixed all over the stereo field. Further along, Alvin’s chanting really sets the piece aloft, as the Brooklyn Bridge offers up a set of insect drones and a realm of wispy ambience takes over. A myriad of horns eventually returns as Bill Bonyun plays bandoneon and sings a sea shanty called “Rolling Home,” which perfectly draws to a close this insanely evocative album. It’s no wonder that Maritime Rites was one of my top picks back in 2004.

    Label: New World Records Catalog Number: 80625-2 Format: 2-CD Packaging: Jewel case Tracks: Disc 1: 12, Disc 2: 8 Total Time: Disc 1: 74:36, Disc 2: 64:04 Country: United States Released: 2004 More: Discogs, Forced Exposure, Last FM, New Albion, Official, Other Minds, Wikipedia

    Text ©2010 Arcane Candy

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