Composed for open instrumentation, Terry Riley's In C (1964) has been realized in a number of combinations, usually by classical and jazz musicians of the minimalist vanguard. This recording by the versatile rock band the Styrenes takes the piece one step further, though the direction may be open to debate. Initially, this rock version kicks off with a stripped-down punk feeling, but soon develops a free-floating looseness one might associate more readily with progressive rock and ambient music; comparisons with several rock styles and aesthetics are inevitable, since the Styrenes' chimerical nature is fully at play in its imaginative rendition. As the listener takes in the hypnotic repetitions of Riley's 53 interlocking patterns, played on multi-tracked guitars, mallet instruments, keyboards, and drums (an über-group of 20 parts!), it's easy to summon up memories of cherished jam sessions from ages past, jumbled in the memory with reverberant echoes of the Who, Frank Zappa, Curved Air, King Crimson, Yes, Robert Fripp, and Brian Eno, to name just a few artists who may come to mind while hearing this metal translation of minimalism's Ur-piece. Theoretically minded listeners may also reflect on the hazy A minor quality that runs through this performance and makes its rock flavor even more pronounced than other versions, which are more emphatically in C major. But no matter which way one hears this performance, its driving energy and shimmering sonorities make it one of the most fascinating of In C's numerous interpretations. Add to that the great sound provided by Unique Studios, NYC, and the superb engineering and mixing, and this exciting recording should attract a new audience to this classic of 1960s experimentation.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson