How much do listeners really know Terry Riley? Don't both critics and audiences tend to pigeonhole him as the minimalist of "In C"? Atlantis Nath reveals an artist -- composer, singer, pianist -- of a very different nature than the one usually under the spotlight. On this profoundly uncategorizable album, Riley blends jazz piano, Indian singing, and contemporary MIDI programming. With the help of sound engineer Luc Martinez, he has devised a seguing sequence of 12 songs that require the listener to shed any preconceptions as to what Riley should sound like. The first thing to hit you in the face is his deep droning voice on the multi-tracked a cappella hymn "Crucifixion Voices." After a short intermezzo of Indian field recordings, listeners enter a sequence of four songs all inhabited by the spirit of Duke Ellington's "Caravan." The well-known theme is only hinted at by the synthesizers in "Derveshum Carnivalis," but it becomes the backbone of the 13-minute highlight, "Emerald Runner," where Riley transforms into the most improbable cabaret jazz singer as he applies the teachings of Indian vocalist and mentor Pandit Pran Nath to a strong series of jazz variations. The 15-minute piano solo "Ascención" takes a more meditative form. "Remember This" features the composer singing what could only be described as an Indian gospel backed by the Nice Opera String Quartet. "Only a Day" features ex-Philharmonie Frederic L'Epée on acoustic fretless guitar. The album concludes with the final scene of Riley's opera based on the life and works of Adolf Woelfli (John Deaderick recites). The CD is packaged in a digipack made of natural paper adorned with Indian iconography, a limited signed and numbered edition of 1,000.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture