R. Stevie Moore

Dumb Philosophy/Criterions

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Occasionally, R. Stevie Moore lays aside his much-vaunted eclecticism and makes a full album in one particular style. Released in 1981, Dumb Philosophy consists almost entirely of loose, improvised-feeling grooves, largely instrumental or with minimal and barely audible lyrics, or in the case of the obsessive "Buying a Gun," single lines repeated endlessly in a kind of barely controlled hysteria. Some, like the graceful "Stern Highpoint," feature the reintroduction of Moore's vintage monophonic synthesizer, an instrument he hadn't used much since 1977's Swing and a Miss. That tune and others, notably the hypnotic title track, sound overtly influenced by Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (and maybe Cabaret Voltaire's contemporaneous singles, like "Sluggin' fer Jesus"), incorporating "vocals" taken from found tapes. (Moore had of course experimented with this himself as early as Phonography's "Explanation of Listener," but "Dumb Philosophy," with its vocals taken from an audio recording of a Southern preacher denouncing divorce, sounds particularly inspired by Eno and Byrne's work.) Similarly, "Vivaldi Strut" makes something new and marvelous by mashing an Antonio Vivaldi string quartet with a funky rhythm section. The two-CD reissue pairs Dumb Philosophy with its immediate predecessor, Criterions, which is stylistically similar but slightly more primitive (in a good way) and noisier. Highlights there include the tape-splice vocal experiments of "Radio Hate!" and its twin doppelgängers and the self-explanatory "Ozone Party/Melbourne on Speed," a live recording featuring a backing tape playing Phonography's instrumental opener about three times faster than it's supposed to.