HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

11 January 2013

Arnold Dreyblatt & The Orchestra Of Excited Strings ‎– 'Nodal Excitation' (India Navigation)

A few months ago I had my ears cleaned out. I thought I had damaged my left ear after seeing a Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover band in a too-small bar, but it turned out to have nothing to do with that - I just had so much wax impacted in my ear canals that things were blocked. The moment of discovery, when the wax is removed (which looked like a dog turd from each ear) is a sonic rebirth. I immediately became aware of sounds I had not perceived for who-knows-how long. Instantly I heard static, crackling around everywhere; the sound of the fluorescent ceiling lamps in the doctor's office; the presence (if not actual sound) of the blood and sinus fluids in my own head. It was among the most psychedelic moments I've ever experienced. I'm glad this happened before I got to the D's here, because Nodal Excitation (like most of Dreyblatt's work) is best enjoyed when you can really perceive the details - otherwise it just sounds like one string being plucked for 40 minutes. I'll make a rare statement here - I used to have the Dexter's Cigar CD reissue of this, which I dumped when I found the vinyl. (I'll never pass up India Navigation originals, who would?) But listening today, with a cup of tea in a dark room, seated lotus style, I wonder if the more clear sonic frequencies in the high register of a CD might be preferable to this pressing. Admittedly, when the deeper sounds cut in (on the second movement of the first side), the vinyl's bass response give it an attack which is just glorious. But the highs are where it's at - the nodes being excited, if you will - and I fear I might be selling it short by listening to this 30 year old slab of wax, which is of course not crystalline. Or maybe this is just the limitation of my shitty amplifier and phono preamp (donations accepted to buy me a new one! Comment below if you want to be my sugar daddy/mommy). But the shifting overtones, fighting against the attack of the staccato strings, are where Dreyblatt works his magic. This is minimalism done right, but there might be deeper questions to investigate about what it means. What is the expressive, human statement of Dreyblatt's compositions? What makes this music, and not sound art? The act of listening, of course, is fundamentally human, and I am truly moved by a sense of wonder and amazement when I listen to Nodal Excitation. But how much of this is from Dreyblatt's hand, and how much is from the context I bring myself to the music? When I get back to Elbow Cinderblock we'll hear some more sides of Dreyblatt, and return to these questions. For now I can enjoy the vinyl's surface noise, dancing around the piano-wire plucks, creating a warm envelope.

No comments:

Post a Comment