Angus MacLise

Astral Collapse

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Though Angus Maclise never released an album before his death in 1981, the discovery of over 50 tapes of his material has led to a flurry of new albums. Whereas Maclise's earlier releases focused mostly on his tribal drum pounding, Astral Collapse offers very little in the way of percussion, instead concentrating on Maclise's work with tape recorders, and even throws in some of his poetry as well. The first side of the LP is taken up by "Smothered Under Astral Collapse," a long piece influenced by Tibetan Buddhism which starts off with tape collage and some surreal mystical poetry, before launching into a long, pulsing drone in the minimalist vein of Tony Conrad, La Monte Young, and John Cale, who were all colleagues of Maclise in New York in the early '60s. It even sounds a bit like another record from a few years back with a similar title and cover artwork, Coil's Astral Disaster. The four tracks on side two vary, from the creaky, oozing "Cloud Watching," which unfolds slowly with plinking piano and strings, to the wild, electronic, tweaked freak-out of "Dracula." "Beelzebub" is the one piece where Maclise drums, in this case on bongos accompanied by prepared tapes, but it is not at all like the colorful and organic trance-ritual workouts of Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda, but rather just a clattering lo-fi rhythm, almost industrial-like, that builds in intensity. Elsewhere on the record, another tidbit of spoken-word crops up, as well as more primitive electronics and tape collage, throwing in snatches of ethno music. Astral Collapse may not have the spiritual intensity of the performances documented on earlier releases, but is still quite an amazing sound document in its own right.

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