Craig Leon

Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music, Vol. 2: The Canon

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While perhaps best known for his extensive career as a rock producer and engineer dating back to the '70s (including the first albums by the Ramones, Blondie, and Suicide), then as a classical arranger and producer since the late '90s, Craig Leon has also become a sort of cult figure among synth aficionados. During the early '80s, he released two albums (Nommos and Visiting) which envisioned the traditional music of an extraterrestrial society, inspired by Leon's viewing of an exhibit of ancient art made by the Dogon tribe of Mali. The albums' hypnotic polyrhythms, stark landscapes, and occasional eerie vocals (by Leon's wife, Cassell Webb) sounded completely alien at the time, but they gradually made more sense in the wake of musical developments such as industrial, techno, and new age. Leon revisited the albums (re-recording Nommos and remastering Visiting), presenting them the way they were meant to be heard as Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1, which was released to major acclaim by RVNG Intl. in 2014, and he performed the albums at major experimental music festivals such as Moogfest and Unsound. The Canon expands on the sound of the first volume, picking up more or less where it left off. While the arrangements are completely electronic, The Canon sounds lusher and more organic than the earlier albums, clearly informed by Leon's extensive experience working with classical musicians. Webb returns to provide vocals on two pieces, resembling Gregorian chanting on opener "The Earliest Trace." On selections such as "Standing Crosswise in the Square" and "The Respondent in Dispute," the melodies are more refined and the drums are more complex compared to the previous albums, and in some ways, it's more engrossing. "The Twenty Second Step as Well as the Tenth" is a more suspenseful, soundtrack-like piece that seems to anticipate the arrival of a UFO. Even more haunting is the concluding "Departure," a thick, fog-like drone which seems to signify some sort of heavenly ascendance. While it might be easy to slap tags such as Fourth World or techno-primitivism onto Leon's music, his Interplanetary Folk concept seems to encompass a much grander scheme, and The Canon proves to be just as visionary as the first volume.

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