A one-time-only collaboration between former Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale and minimalist composer Terry Riley, 1971's Church of Anthrax doesn't sound too much like the solo work of either. Around this time, Riley's works were along the lines of "A Rainbow in Curved Air" or "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band": pattern music with an obsessive attention to repetition and tricks with an analogue delay machine that gave his music a refractory, almost hallucinogenic quality. Though Cale was trained in a similar aesthetic (he played with La Monte Young, surely the most minimal of all minimalist composers), he had largely left it behind by 1971, and so Church of Anthrax mixes Riley's drones and patterns with a more muscular and melodic bent versed in both free jazz and experimental rock. Not quite modern classical music, but not at all rock & roll either, Church of Anthrax sounds in retrospect like it was a huge influence on later post-minimalist composers like Andrew Poppy, Wim Mertens, and Michael Nyman, who mix similar doses of minimalism, rock, and jazz. On its own merits, the album is always interesting, and the centerpiece "The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles" is probably the point where Riley and Cale approach each other on the most equal footing. The low point is Cale's solo writing credit, "The Soul of Patrick Lee," a slight vocal interlude by Adam Miller that feels out of place in these surroundings.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason