Terry Riley - Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band: All Night Flight (SUNY Buffalo, New York, 22 March 1968) (Organ of Corti/Elision Fields CD)
Time for some revisionism! Can't say I understand too well why this disc was reissued last year...but I think I've got it straight now. "Poppy Nogood" was originally available on Terry Riley's "A Rainbow in Curved Air" disc in 1990, then issued as a standalone on the Organ of Corti's Terry Riley archive series in 1996 (which eventually went out of print) and now finally repressed here by Elision Fields (with new packaging although for an Elision Fields issue it displays the words "The Organ of Corti Archive Series" across the front pretty prominently) despite the fact that it's still available on Sony's "Rainbow" CD. So why would anybody buy this one by itself and not just "Rainbow" where you actually get the seminal "Rainbow" piece alongside "Poppy"? I'm not sure. Why did I buy this one? Chalk it up to not knowing any better, although I couldn't really tell you if the version of "Poppy" here is the exact same one found on "Rainbow". Maybe some touch ups here or there, who knows. They were both most definitely culled from the same recording, on March 22nd, 1968 in New York. And, all issues/reissues aside, I had a serious lack in my CD collection of Terry Riley discs and this one's nice and cheap. Why not eh?
"Poppy Nogood" is one of Terry Riley's (solo) all night flights, whereby he jams econo for a good bit of time. Like this one, apparently an excerpt from a longer session beginning at 10pm and lasting all the way until 6am. Goddamn do we need those now, more than ever. Who's doing the all night flights these days, huh? And I'm not talking new year's. Come on people, for serious. Anyway like I said, Riley plays solo here using soprano saxophone, organ and his own time-lag accumulator, which is to say "a pair of tape recorders connected in series and perpetually regenerating the sounds played into the first machine". Basically if you can fathom gently swirling sax swathes and oceanic organ sunbathing, you're in the right place both mentally and spiritually. Across these 40 minutes (and five untitled pieces), Riley spools out a woozy, delirious, droning resonance that almost sounds like it's constantly falling over itself as it's regurgitated from machine to mouth to hand and back to machine. It's both beautiful and hypnotic when "Poppy" locks you in its gaze and refuses to relinquish for the the entire duration of the piece...not that you'd ever want to break free anyway. Hard to believe how ahead of his time Riley was when he composed this mother all the way back in '68...to me the heaviest influence I can detect from "Poppy"'s churning, symphonic oomph is La Monte Young's "Dorian Blues" though I don't think it takes a rocket scientist (or even a music major) to deduce the obvious influence Young's piece may have had on Terry Riley. And from here it's almost impossible to count how many people "Poppy Nogood" may have influenced along the way: Eno and Fripp, the Velvet Underground, Arvo Part, William Basinski, Glenn Branca, Faust, Tim Hecker, Spiritualized, you-fucking-name-it dude. And not without good reason - "Poppy Nogood" is an absolute stunner and required reading if you're into anything the likes of which Riley and co. have been involved with, although I might recommend picking up "A Rainbow in Curved Air" instead of this one, and getting two for the price of one instead. But nevertheless, good ons to Elision Fields, whomever they may be, for keeping Terry Riley's music available in all forms.