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Old 10.19.2006, 11:13 AM   #1
whorefrost
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was to appear on Groundwater music... It sucks pretty hard... don't think I was ever cut out to be a critic...

TEXT OF LIGHT - METAL BOX
Dirter 2006

Text of Light features a shifting pool of improvisers including Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Alan Licht, Ulrich Krieger, Christian Marclay, William Hooker, Tim Barnes and DJ Olive. The group perform improvised soundtracks to the avant-garde silent films of Stan Brakhage. Myriad live appearances are assembled across these three discs contained in a replica of the PiL metal box, engraved ToL.

Disc one starts the proceedings with the groups first ever set, from New York’s Tonic club in 2001. The music is immediately frenzied and abrasive. Hooker’s frenzied free jazz drumming collides against Marclay’s warped turntables. Things calm down enough for some pleasantly modulated guitar to seep through. The set continues this way: alternately frenetic and then subdued. Eerie dissonance remains a constant. At times the instruments are difficult to distinguish from each other. This being their first show, some listeners may perceive teething problems, parts where things go slightly awry. Others may delight in the earnest experimentation and spontaneity of it all, such as the end of track one when the other instruments gradually whittle away leaving a surreal turntable loop.
Track two is rooted firmly in sci-fi sound effect territory, a cauldron of modulated electronic signals and bleeps accompany Ranaldo’s trademark delayed guitar. It sounds reminiscent of another recent successful Sonic Youth side project - Four Guitars Live. Patterns, melodies and sketches of structure
may emerge briefly but are quickly blown away in a hurricane of noise. There is no definitive path, everything is shifting and subjective, just like Brakhage’s films.
Track five features slabs of drone with notes and tones flickering briefly like flashes of light illuminating an empty auditorium.
Disc one closes with a 17 minute voyage to nowhere. It begins with ominous foghorn sounds, crashing cymbals like waves and a slowly melting saxophone. The sounds evoke bleak plains with ink black birds scattered across an empty grey sky. This is the group at their most filmic, a sound they will revisit more centrally later on. Wide open sonic architecture is erected to accommodate Brakhage’s images.

Disc two assembles material from various sources including an improvisation by Krieger, Ranaldo and Licht over a stanza of James Joyce’s poetry. No-one can accuse Text of Light of not being interdisciplinary.
Disc two also includes an excerpt from the group’s most recent set in Brussels 2005. A more minimal approach is utilised here with heavy slabs of drone intercepting each other. The main difference between the way the group sounds here as opposed to on disc one is in the percussion department. With William Hooker at the helm in 2001, Text of Light had a more scattershot, fierce free-jazz strategy. Later shows featured Tim Barnes replacing Hooker. Barnes, who also features on Sonic Youth’s tremendous SYR6, is concerned with a lighter, more subtle approach. Tinkling bells and chimes leave the guitars and sax to create wide open vistas of atmospheric noise. The overall result is possibly more satisfying than the group’s earlier experiments which, at times, seem to lack focus and cohesion.
Also included here are live studio sessions from 2002 which find the group without a drummer. Instead DJ Olive and Christian Marclay feature on turntables. The results are generally impressive although at times the sampling seems slightly arbitrary, leaving the other musicians tentative, seemingly unsure as to how to engage with the turntables.
Disc two closes with an excerpt from a Berlin gig in 2003 with Ranaldo, Licht, Krieger, Barnes and DJ Olive. Again, Barnes percussion is magnificent. He seems to know when to be more prominent and when to hold back and has a great array of tools for the job. DJ Olive’s work here is inspired as well, his short samples of foreign voices, explosions and general destruction lend a grim atmosphere to the piece. In contrast the guitars are quieter, placid, almost verging on melodic at times.

On disc three we find the unit at their most monolithic, sparse, and satisfying. Phosphorescent electronic sparks illuminate vast canvases of ominous feedback and drone. The music seems to be slowly exiting Earth’s atmosphere to explore distant, desolate planets. The percussion here evokes corroded structures collapsing in the distance. Suddenly horns blurt in, squawking like exotic dying animals. The looming wall of noise caves in to a frenzied free jazz assault. Instruments stutter and squeal , the whole structure on the verge of collapse. High frequency alarm tones bring to mind My Cat is an Alien. Shimmering vistas of feedback, a silver electronic sun illuminating glittering percussive shards. Dead-end horns lament over post-apocalyptic scenes of terminal decay. Snippets of tentative horns echo into infinity in a whirlwind of clattering percussion.

There is much within this metal box to sit down with and gradually immerse yourself in. I found it fun to trace the lineage of the group and listen to the Text of Light line up gradually morph over the three discs. This box still serves as a vital artefact for this formidable improv unit and will appeal to experimental noise chin strokers as well as the more adventurous Sonic Youth fan.
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Old 10.19.2006, 04:48 PM   #2
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Thanks, you did a good job writing about music that is so hard to write about.
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Old 10.19.2006, 06:30 PM   #3
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Well written, man. I haven't (and unfortunately, probably won't ever...) heard it... but I can see where yr coming from...
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Old 10.20.2006, 02:38 AM   #4
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I don't find it shitty at all. In fact... I'm gonna rep your ass.
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Old 10.22.2006, 02:07 PM   #5
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hey whorefrost I like the review! If you are agree, I may put it up on the ToL site into reviews section. mail me at fluxus (at) sonicurbs (dot) com
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Old 10.22.2006, 04:02 PM   #6
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go for it
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Old 10.24.2006, 04:52 PM   #7
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thanks for the good and detailed review. Now I know I won't miss anything
(I'm not into the solo projects anymore)

In case anyone wants to buy it:
http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?cat...&from=AG07D235
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