Loren Connors

Unaccompanied Acoustic Guitar Improvisations, Vols. 1-9: 1979-1980

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The music on these four CDs, which comprise the nine volumes of Loren Mazzacane Connors' "Daggett Street" years in Connecticut, are like nothing else in his catalog. Indeed, if Connors was a shadowy, enigmatic figure before the release of these long-dormant recordings, they should make him a bona fide myth. According to the booklet that Connors wrote for the release of these albums -- and they were albums, issued in editions of 100 copies each with no copies sold (he pitched them into a dumpster!) -- the Daggett Street years were both magical and burdensome, filled with poverty and the lack of even the most minimal comforts such as plumbing, electricity, heat, etc. Artists and musicians surrounded him in the other apartments during these years, and he began experimenting with new forms of improvisation. The short-line, long-form, open-ended excursions are without beginning or destination; in fact, nothing is evident here but the journey itself. It's easy to see the work of his greatest influence, painter Mark Rothko, in the formless darkness -- a void punctuated by sound and garlanded by nothing but space. On volume one, Connors' voice attempts to understand the placement of his hands, to moan in tone, as it were, to find the root of the mystery, but like Charles Olson's Maximus Poems or Stephane Mallarme's A Tomb for Anatole, the end of each line trails off before another begins, not knowing if it connected or not, not perceiving how large or small the statement itself is or the shape of its form, but only that it needs to be "gotten down" as an extension of his very breath. The first two volumes of this work, comprising the first disc and lasting nearly two hours, delve deeply into the principle of the search itself as a goal. Tonalities, resonances, and dissonances are played, tossed out, shaped, and reformed as lines on a canvas, all of them to be revisited later, or not. Technique was never an issue, the instrument has to be played, and needs to speak on its own. These are the dictums Connors followed.

On disc two, it becomes apparent that some of what Connors speaks about in the booklet's liner notes was making its way into the music -- fear of his surrounding neighborhood, memories or feelings related to a particular space in the studio or building -- as he would look at the blacked-out windows and attempt to discover the language he was playing. The spirits of the living and the dead would pry their way into his strange blues -- and this music isn't called blues because it follows a 12-bar structure or attempts to ape the Mississippi Delta bluesmen from generations before, but because of the feeling inherent in every note here. The sides themselves are full of a mysterious presence, especially in volumes three and eight, which were edited down for whatever reason Connors felt necessary. This habit has kept Connors at the forefront of his art: his willingness to pare it down further, and to join together phrases, lines, and entire works that had been smaller, separate entities. It's in the language that, since these recordings were originally released, has come to bear as both fully developed and unaware of all that it contains as either music or emotion. Connors claims that only the punks in the years 1979 and 1980 understood his music and could accept it. The interesting thing is that none of the free jazz weirdos could. Certainly they had been exposed to Derek Bailey and Fred Frith? But Connors' music during this period had none of the drive of Frith's anarchism, nor did it have the rugged intellectualism of Bailey's studied improvisation. However, it did possess a vulnerable tenacity that pressed on without the ability to create an agenda.

By the time one reaches volumes seven, eight, and nine, it starts to become clear that Connors knew he had a music, a language, but he couldn't fully lay claim to it yet -- his muse seems to be feeding it to him bits and pieces at a time in the way of a syntax. Sonorities and sonances climb from extended lines and intersect with others, angular and shapely, finding the plane of music at the same height as the plane of doubt and questioning. The force by which Connors propels his investigations has grown even more vulnerable in its fierceness, and allowed his strings to bend even when he's not willing to. There is a complete openness and the ideas are richer, more expansive, and still unapproachably musical in their conception, delivery, and integrity -- though the only music they can suggest is the blues, because this language of his is based solely on sensation (which is feeling) and memories and emotions (which are often the memories of emotions). At the end of disc four, when volume nine whispers to a close, the listener can only wonder if anything has been learned from the experience of taking it in. If there was an attempt to "understand" Connors' music during this period -- or even now -- the physicality of it has been missed completely. Offering judgments or misgivings about what such an approach is worth only creates a malady of the spirit. Those claiming to have felt through the poignant, sharp patches of sound, as they undulate with warm tones and often fickle regularities, have been cheated of the vulnerability it takes to really allow this music to inhabit them, which is through the blank -- tabula rasa -- canvas of feeling.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
32:41
2
34:13

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
33:31
2
37:46

Track Listing - Disc 3

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
32:40
2
35:06

Track Listing - Disc 4

Title/Composer Performer Time
1
13:24
2
34:54
3
24:51
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