The Tower Recordings
the galaxies' incredibly sensual transmission field of the tower recordings

The Communion Label
2005
B+



ou could argue an armchair thesis that the automobile has transformed our tactile, communal world into a series of geographical segments that merely connect point A to B, that space has become something of an obstacle or conduit to efficiently traverse rather than the noumenal, gooey mass of pig shit, prairie grass, and other people's front yards it might otherwise be, instead of a world you inhabit and pass through sullied. Likewise, much of our music, whether the radical club-hopping functionalism of house or the uber-hook readymade anthemicisms of a band like The Killers, is hewn by design to get your ass where it's going on command.

The music The Tower Recordings make goes nowhere and satisfies very little function. It won't help you run a 3-minute mile before work or enjoy yourself while doing the laundry. This is, as the title suggests, a dense stewy, sensual mass of pseudo-synchronized sensitive ugliness broadcast from several different artistic galaxies all at once. To submerge yourself into it is to enter into a transaction, surrendering your need to see your own reflection, or apprehend the size and shape of what you're moving through. It is music that can only be enjoyed and understood one moment to the next, experienced physically from the bottom up.

The Tower Recordings is a somewhat porous collective of bright lights from the upstate New York and Vermont free-folk scene, including (on this record) the ubiquitous duo of Matt Valentine and Erika Elder, Pat Gubler (PG Six) and his sometimes collaborator Helen Rush, Hall of Fame's Samara Lubelski, Tim Barnes (Jim O'Rourke, Neil Michael Hagerty), S. Freyer Esq., Andre Vida, and drone-star Dean Roberts (Thela, White-Winged Moth). Resulting from a series of lock-in recording sessions at a church in upstate New York sometime last winter (or the one before), the galaxies'... is a heady, exploratory series of songs that unfold in barely over thirty minutes and feels like either twice or half that long (depending on where your head is at). Every one of the six songs is a heavily layered bricolage of acoustic guitars, organs and analog synthesizers, tribal percussion, piano, electric guitar, and several galaxies' worth of unidentifiable electronics. While a warm current of circular hippy jam runs underneath the floorboards, evoking Floyd, T. Rex, and maybe a little Velvet Underground (circa White Light, White Heat), on every song but the final track the Tower Recordings are able to transmute what might otherwise be predictable, staid psychedelia into something entirely discomforting and new. For every slightly predictable bong-hit gesture (and there are a few), there are five engaging musical responses so schizophrenic and searching that the trippy nostalgia serves only to confuse and invigorate rather than push the usual buttons.

Guided by MV'S and Tim Barnes' 'just-obtrusive enough' production, The Tower Recordings have been able to extract what is strongest in the individual voices of its collaborators and isolate, at best, the places where these sympathetic voices are just short of being at-odds with each other, the logic of one threatening the stability of the others. On the songs that are founded on more traditional folk ground (like the merry-go-round 12-string/viola/harmonica on "Ibiza Whithin You") the jagged electronics, Sun-Ra synthesis and altogether otherworldy vocal production pushes the boundaries (and the excitement) well beyond more restrained recent offerings from PG Six or Samara Lubelski, resembling Richard Youngs backed by Stillupsteypa and Sigur Ros and recorded in one take to used two-inch tape. The record's strongest statement, the almost harmolodic jam "Forum," is equal parts Fairport Convention, Butthole Surfers and Gastr del Sol; a glorious mess of gone-native tomtom grooves, telephone ring-mod solos, envelope filtered guitars, and vocals that manage to be both in-tune and out, dusty, derelict, and divine.

If any of this messy slowness appeals, enter cautiously and with a mind to prolong your visit and forego your own needs. the galaxies'... unfold only after several listens and yield their rewards in carefully measured doses. If you have been seduced into visiting the world of free-folk through the inviting pop strains of Sung Tongs or Devendra Banhart's lutey balladry, expect here to be wandering lost awhile in something by comparison brambly and wholly untamed, less mystical than mystifying, but well-worth the occasional frustration.



Reviewed by: William S. Fields

Reviewed on: 2005-02-21

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