Motor Totemist Guild

All America City

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AllMusic Review by

All America City is presented as the music from the soundtrack of the motion picture Yu Gakusei, a screenplay written by James Grigsby, the man behind Motor Totemist Guild. The story seems to involve Internet communication and beautiful Asian women, both themes also found in the Grigsby novella serving as a canvas for U Totem's album Strange Attractors (U Totem was another Grigsby project). The Motor Totemist Guild line-up is very different than on the previous album, City of Mirrors. Billed as the Guild are Grigsby (computer, samplers, composition), Rod Poole (acoustic guitar), Bridget Convey (piano), Hannes Giger (contrabass), and David Kerman (drums). Old-time Totemist friends Lynn Johnston and Sanjay Kumar are found in the list of "unwitting accomplices."

Between All America City and City of Mirrors the difference is huge, although both sport a double personality. While the latter alternated between Canterbury-esque songs and long avant-garde swing band numbers, All America City is constructed in two parts. The first 21 tracks and the album closer are all short (mostly between one and three minutes) pieces with titles descriptive of the scenes they are used in. This part of the album is mostly made of computer/synthesizer music and blends film music techniques with avant-prog complexity and some pop sensibilities, but the result remains cold (although some pieces like "Exterior Dilapidated Shack" are luminescent). The other side to this album is "Yamatonadeshiko," a 27-minute epic showcasing the musicians listed above as Motor Totemist Guild. This neo-classical composition focuses on acoustic instruments with Grigsby's sonic layers infiltrating the musical matter. Of an aesthetic somewhat new for the composer, this piece elegantly combines classical training and free improvisation into one impressive lump of music. It alone is worth tracking down this CD.

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