Ruth White - Flowers of Evil / Steve Birchall - Reality Gates: Electronic Meditations by Steve Birchall (Creel Pone CD-Rs)
Part two of a Creel Pone smorgasbord! Despite the fact that all Creel Pones were originally issued as many as sixty years ago, they seem more relevant than ever to me today, especially with the big early-electronic revival that seems to be sweeping (or is that BLEEPING? ahahaha) the nation lately. Finding out about all these obscure, obtuse, unknown diamunz in the rough is a lot like when I first started getting into 60's psychedelia, in that it's hard to believe there's so much quality stuff that seems to have gone so under-documented. So, of course, another tip of the chapeau to Creel Pone for doing just that. Because god knows I never would've found these on my own. Sometimes we just need a little help from our Icelandic friend(s).
These two were also both blind buys, going off their Mimaroglu descriptions alone, but the fact that Ruth White's dealio is essentially a half-hour homage to Baudelaire helped sway me. There's nine pieces on the LP (okay, CD-R) and each one centers around White reading off a translated version of a Baudelaire poem. But it ain't at all that easy, as White does her best to match the loneliness and despair of Baudelaire's words with her monotonic voice and of course numerous synthesizers, filters, effects, pitchshifting, tape abuse, and the like. Also when White translated the poems she went literal rather than trying to make em all rhyme up again in English, and it works to great effect, particularly on the opener "The Clock" where she intones lines like "my metal throat can speak all languages" and "time is a greedy gambler who wins at every turn of the wheel without cheating". Man that's far out! And to think this came out in '69? On a major label no less (Mercury)? Obscenity. "Mists and Rains" is a similar piece with White's near-catatonic recital painted with whooshes and gusts of, well, mists and rains...either prerecorded or generated by her machines. It's stark, but pales in contrast to the life-ending "Spleen". Coupled with the voices (White's?) running in reverse against Baudelaire's words: "and long hearses, without drums or music, move in a slow procession through my soul". It's like the first time you saw the Shining, only with you on the Big Wheel and Danny on the sofa with the popcorn. Speaking of Kubrick films, "Evening's Harmony" does a whole great deal to remind me of Wendy Carlos' seminal A Clockwork Orange soundtrack, so much so that I glanced over the ACO OST tracklisting to be sure and apparently it's an original work. It's also worth noting that the movie came out a full two years after "Flowers of Evil"...hmmmmmmm. Other preferred tunes are the tense, psychedelic/spacey nattering on "Lover's Wine" and of course the grand finale of total alienation, "The Litanies of Satan". If you know the poem, you should already know there's no better way to conclude a Baudelaire-centric disc. Especially when White's warbly, heavily-modified vocals are doing the reading. Aw shit Ruth, why you gotta give me the night creeps like that?
Steve Birchall's "Reality Gates" is pretty much the polar opposite of Ruth White's record, at least in terms of wordiness. Birchall does all his talking through the equipment listed on the back sleeve: 16 track recorded, Spectrasonics console, EMT reverb, computerized lathe and EMS synthesizer, among others. What this translates to is a 40-minute long electronic freakout of the highest degree. John Olson describes it as "dude with problems and synths" and I agree. This sounds every bit like the obscure loner descriptions you read about when Edmond de Deyster records are brought up, and of course Conrad Schnitzler as well. But I dunno, Birchall's working totally on his own tangent, like a one-man space station sending out anonymous transmissions to anyone who'll bother to listen. But that's not to say it's random noise or anything of that sort...despite the fact that what we're hearing is as far removed from humanity as possible, there's an impressive narrative running throughout "Reality Gates". I don't know what it is and I don't know if I want to know but I can't say it's off the cuff - Birchall knew exactly what he was doing when he laid down these five galaxy-defying slabs. It's not at all droney like the Jurgen Karg Creel Pone was but still dabbles in the same realms of gentle isolation and introspection. At least, that's the vibe I get. Plus I'd put the Karg one on as music to fall asleep to, but this one would keep me up all night with my thumb in my mouth. Despite the fact that there's a track called "Summer Memories" (which doesn't sound a thing like my summer memories but to each his own), Birchall inadvertantly nails his own M.O. with two other titles: "Music of the Spheres" and "Cosmic Carousel". It's brilliant and weird, naturally. As the best things usually are.
If you were to go out on your own and pick up some Creel Pones, I'd recommend you Jurgen Karg's and Ruth White's at the moment, but the other two could just as easily take over top spots in a couple of days' time. I've got a morbid curiosity to find out if this CD-R series can do any wrong, I think I'll take another chance and find out. Blind buying Creel Pones at $10 each could easily become a hobby of mine...sure beats spending $40 a single LP (but I'm not bitter). Checking out the Creel Pone website just makes me even more aroused...they've got their release schedule through the end of the year posted and dig these two compilations: one with the intriguing title "Creelpolation 1" which looks to be a 3xCD-R (already out! gasp!) and another bearing the name "Israeli Electroacoustic Music". Whoa. As if that wasn't enough there's also one on the way from Tod Dockstader, Grupo Experimental Electroacustico, Bernard Parmegiani, and more. Sure winners, all. No wait, that's us, because we get to hear these records and most for the very first time. 'Scuze me, I've got a tear in my eye.