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13 February 2016

Philip Glass ‎– 'Koyaanisqatsi' (Antilles)

I've seen the film of which this is the soundtrack, and it's pretty good! A bunch of crazy time-lapse stuff, showing people from all over the world working and living their lives; it's a real artistic vision of late capitalism, for sure. Not entirely unlike those videos Phill Niblock always shows during his performances, of developing nations toiling in fields of rice, etc. -- but maybe the short attention span theatre edition. The music sounds pretty austere though - a bunch of chanting in unknown tongues and thick, layered instrumentation (five trumpets, five French horns, four violas, two tubas, etc.) which makes it actually sound like synth music in a few places. There is a lot of keyboard, being pretty much equally lead instrumentation with the choir (courtesy of the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, none of whom are credited by name -- I guess when you join a choir you take a vow of semi-anonymity, sort of like playing offensive line for the Denver Broncos) and it all just sounds great if you turn it up LOUD. A reviewer's note here: I got a new turntable since the last post, so this is the first record listened to through the superior effort of the Rega Planar 3, and wow! The voices sound fucking intense, especially on 'Vessels' or maybe it's 'Cloudscape' - I wasn't paying attention. Turning up the volume knob makes the recorded human voice sound like I've never heard it before, perhaps the way he's layered them here or something to do with what they are singing. I assume it's the Hopi language that the title comes from, but maybe it's just gibberish, or maybe the Magma language -- who knows? who cares? It's a power that those Alabama Sacred Harp Singers records have, where you just feel an energy coursing through your body and ripping you apart. The sacred harp jams are about Jesus or salvation or something, and this is, I guess, about how the pace of technology-driven modern life is desiccating our souls (again, I'm not fluent in Hopi) so you can choose what's more inspiring. I'm not a Christian in the slightest (hail Eris!) and spend most of my time thinking about the aforementioned desiccation than any sort of Creator, yet I love Gospel music, which at its best, conjured the same shimmery whole-body magic that this does. Fans of that mid-70s Meredith Monk vibe will also find a lot to love here, as Koyaanisqatsi has a dour, medieval feel (despite its openness, or maybe precisely because of it); when the title track is chanted at the beginning and end of this record you know you're somewhere special. This has always been my favourite Philip Glass work, seemingly balanced between his more commercial efforts and the postmodern operatic work such as Einstein on the Beach (though, I remember that pretty fondly, too).

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