John Cale

Inside the Dream Syndicate, Vol. 3: Stainless Steel Gamelan

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This third volume of the Inside the Dream Syndicate series is also the fourth to feature John Cale, his Sun Blindness music, recorded during the same period is somehow outside this series. As on volume two, this set features Cale in collaboration and solo with producer Tony Conrad (who owns these archive recordings), Sterling Morrison, his mate in the Velvet Underground, Terry Jennings, and Angus MacLise (oh yes, and the New York Fire Department). All of the pieces date from the early to mid-1960s. The set opens with the title cut, with Morrison and Cale performing on something called a "cembalett" (small cimbalom) and a fretless guitar. Here, as in many of the early minimalism pieces, the concentration was on modulation and pitch, here recumbent themes payer upon one another as a main pulse flows through the center of the mix. Various tonalities and timbres glint in and out of the musical body creating an entirely new set of sonorific pulses. On the album's longest work, "At About this Time, Mozart Was Dead and Joseph Conrad Was Sailing the Seven Seas Learning English," at nearly half an hour for wollensack, viola, and guitar, tape edits are sliced into the mix, altering whole tones and creating intervals out of seeming half and semi-quavers. Interestingly, since the notion of the piece is to move ever upward, these cuts seem to create intervals of modulation where there were none. There is also an awesome, fearsome piece between Cale and Conrad (who plays something called a "thunder machine") to accompany Cale's electric piano on "After the Locust." It feels like John Cage's early experiments with amplification combined with the dense aggressiveness of the Velvet Underground. The tape experiment with the Fire Department is akin to something Luc Ferrari would create in the late 1960s, and is interesting in that it gives nothing of its source material away in the mix. The piece with MacLise and Jennings, "Terry's Cha-Cha," is a lighthearted bit of musical misanthropy that has nothing whatsoever to do with minimalism, but everything to do with MacLise's later involvement in studying Eastern music. There is melody, harmony, and a sense of rhythm from MacLise that is otherworldly. Again, this is another revelatory chapter in a music from a bygone yet ever present era. Even today, this series of discs sounds more revolutionary, more forward thinking and looking than just about anything else.

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