Angus MacLise

Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda

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The best available recorded documentation of MacLise's work has imperfect fidelity and sketchy details about the five tracks, recorded between 1968 and 1972. It does, however, reveal multiple facets of the percussionist's adventurous music, and firmly establishes him as a significant force in experimental sound in projects not at all related to the Velvet Underground. The most powerful and ambitious of the five cuts is the 39-minute title song, an improvised soundtrack to Ira Cohen's avant-garde film of the same name. MacLise's polyrhythmic hand drum anchors a spooky, hypnotic piece in which organ, tanpura (both played by his wife Hetty MacLise), flute, guitar, dulcimer, and disturbing vocal chants ebb and subside like a Halloween dream soundscape. Although it's not detailed in the liner notes, ghostly reverb seems to be employed on both the flute and vocals, adding to a otherworldly ambience in which psychedelia, shamanistic rhythm, avant-garde drone, and Indian music weave shifting prisms around each other. The other four selections are a real mixed bag, in the best sense of that expression. "Shortwave-India" is a one-minute blast of radio static and white noise; "Heavenly Blue Pt. 4 & 5," credited to the Universal Mutant Repertory Company, is another combination of drum and drone that puts a greater accent on Indian and Asian music influences; and "Blastitude" is a more rhythmic construction that might remind some listeners of Moroccan trance music, with periodic unascribed orgiastic yelps and sighs. The concluding "Humming in the Night Skull," featuring MacLise on song bells, Hetty MacLise on harmonium, and others on flute and guitar, is a soothing combination of tones (punctuated by a couple of baby cries), demonstrating that Angus was not entirely devoted to angst.

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