NICOLAS HORVATH & B. LUSTMORD – THE FALL
(DENNIS JOHNSON’S ‘NOVEMBER’ DECONSTRUCTED)
Dennis Johnson‘s 1959 composition ‘November’, for solo piano, is considered to be one of the earliest minimal compositions. It is famous for being the inspiration for La Monte Young’s ‘Well-Tuned Piano’. I dare say it is extremely minimal, which is perhaps best demonstrated on the 2013 4-CD box (5 hr!) version performed by R. Andrew Lee.
This deconstruction of November takes a different approach, possibly making the composition more accessible for a larger audience in more than one way.
Nicolas Horvath, pianist, electroacoustic composer, and enthusiastic promoter of contemporary music, stays close to the original notes: unhurriedly repeating the minimalist piano themes.
The main difference in this performance is in the ambient/environmental complimentary soundscapes added by Brian Lustmord: natural sounds of birds, distant thunder as well as remote synth pads. Effective in atmosphere, but at the same time coloring the background in an unobtrusive way.
(Brian) Lustmord is “often credited for creating the ‘dark ambient’ genre, but there is much more nuance to his work than what that label implies. The music is not dark, but is a light that shines into and upon the darkness.”
This fascinatingly beautiful rendition of Dennis Johnson’s ‘November’ perfectly proves this point.
OPENING PERFORMANCE ORCHESTRA
ft BILL LASWELL, IGGY POP & WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS – THE ACID LANDS
In 2014, the Prague-based avant-garde and noise music group Opening Performance Orchestra celebrated the centenary the birth of Beat Generation icon William S. Burroughs with a live performance of The Acid Lands. The narrated texts were taken from Burrough’s The Western Lands – “a haunting Book Of The Dead for the nuclear age” (goodreads.com), as well as from his Junkie (Confessions of an Undeemed Drug Addict, 1953).
This release on Sub Rosa is not the 2014 performance, but a studio version recorded in 2019/20 in collaboration with Bill Laswell (bass, mix translation), Iggy Pop (narrator), Martina Potucková (theremin) and Alfred Sabela (moog, tone generators).
For Bill Laswell, the ‘Western Lands’ is no unknown territory: in 1989 Material released their album Seven Souls – based on the same inspirational source (and also featuring the unequivocal voice of William S. Burroughs), but with a considerably ‘funkier’ approach.
The main part of this release is the 25-minute opening track. Iggy’s sonorous voice introduces us into “the territory to which the Egyptians believed the souls of the dead made a hazardous pilgrimage in their quest for true immortality”. Effective, but it also made me think about the unique hazy diction of William Burroughs, who had an unrivaled way of reading his own work.
Burroughs‘ own voice is omnipresent in this recording, but in multiple superimposed versions of his reading, which makes them completely incomprehensible.
Confusing, yes – but perhaps it’s a fitting choice because the road to the Western Land is “devious, unpredictable…” The road to The Western Lands is not an easy stroll, which is futher depicted by the shrieking noises and loud guitar feedback following the introduction.
“Beware of the middle roads, the roads of common sense, and careful planning. The obvious road is almost always a fool’s road.“
This is why some of the more ambient-inclined may prefer the 17-minute ambient mix-translation of the same piece – a fully instrumental remix by Bill Laswell himself. It doesn’t have the vocals but the mystery may be even deeper.
The album concludes with the bonus mix-translation Naming the Seven Souls – a concise summary of all that came before.