Friday, July 2, 2010

Raven Chacon - At the Point Where the Rivers Crossed, We Drew Our Knives [Anarchymoon]

This newish Anarchy moon LP is a solo work from New Mexico- based artist Raven Chacon, operator of the SickSickSick label. Chacon keeps one foot planted in experimental noise music and the other in chamber composition and this LP finds both sides getting equal airtime.
The first side features a single piece performed by Chacon titled "The Totem of the Total Siren." The track was recorded live and feels like it. You can definitely hear the room. The piece begins by sounding like a swarm of bees, but in a surprisingly pleasant way, like bees in the distant for enough away there's no danger of being stung. There's subtle touches of melody beneath din and occasional dynamic explosions in volume. I have no idea what Chacon had at his disposable here; it could be many things. Hell, maybe there really were bees involved. Percussive sounds, melodic sounds and general noise and textures all blend into a singular piece. There are times where more definition to the sound would be nice but you'd probably lose some of that tactile texture though. Chacon does a pretty good job with pacing and creating dynamics within the perma-buzz. Around halfway through, the track gets pried open a little and Chacon gets a bit harsher over a percussion loop. Things continue to get progressively harsher and "shriekier" until a semi-Skaters-style keyboard loop pops up for the piece to drift out on as it ends on a locked groove.
I like the first piece but for my money, the B side is where it's at. There are two pieces composed by Chacon but performed by other people. The first "La'ts'aadah - For Solo Violin" from 2004 is right up my alley as I definitely dig on (solo) violin. Performed by Mark Menzies, the piece features long bowed grinds. There's some times elongated pauses between sounds causing me to wonder if this was somehow whittled down from a larger recording. That seems unlikely, but it gives it an odd elliptical quality. There's a melody but the emphasis, like the first piece is all about texture, in this case that means doing all the things your violin teacher told you not to. Mostly working with long, stuttering strokes Menzies creates an unsettled but strangely controlled sound environment. It seems rather anomalous for a solo violin piece as its slow moving with very few theatrics. The second piece, from 2006, "Hasta'aadah - For Wind Ensemble" is my favorite. It's good to see Chacon adding to the wind ensemble repetoire, especially one of this quality. The piece was commissioned and performed by the University of Mary Washington Wind Ensemble and conducted by Craig Naylor. Initially, brass reeds swell robustly with occasional melodic divergences. The piece features the same effortless, wandering movement of the last couple pieces but it's a little more disciplined here. There's a much stronger sense of melody which I like but it's by no means a standard melody. Various parts of the ensemble careen into one another in slow motion with a Charles Ives-like appreciation for atonality. It's a bizarrely beautiful piece. It reminds me in some ways when they show radio waves colliding in space in movies and you hear Elvis overlapping with JFK and FDR and so on. There's drone influenced parts and other warped, carnival music-influenced melodies and all sorts of things expertly crafted into something that is impossible to truly grasp but incredibly listenable and captivating. I really wish I had a stronger vocabulary to describe this as it's really spectacular. I hope Chacon has more of these up his sleeve. I'm hooked.
It's worth picking up the LP for that piece alone, the other two are icing on the cake for me. If you haven't heard Chacon's work before this is a great place to get acquainted.
The record comes with cool silk-screened wrap-around artwork and a full-sized insert. Still available in an edition of 200.

No comments: