Note: This is a modified and expanded version of a review, originally published by SoundOhm.
After deliver a walloping punch with the recent premier of their États-Unis series, Superior Viaduct returns with two more remarkable works from the historic avant-garde – Jon Gibson’s Two Solo Pieces and Arnold Dreyblatt And The Orchestra Of Excited Strings’ Propellers In Love. Among the greatest artifacts of the second wave of American Minimalism, long hunted by collectors, and never before reissued on vinyl, each rises as an emblem of the label’s deep commitment to delivering astounding adventures in sound.
Jon Gibson – Two Solo Pieces (1977 / 2017)
A founding member of both Steve Reich and Phillip Glass’ ensembles, and an early collaborator with Terry Riley and LaMonte Young, Jon Gibson is a seminal figure in the 20th century American avant-garde. Long dedicated to realizing the work of others, and subsequently lingering in the shadows of his famous peers, during the 1970’s he released two albums on Phillip Glass’ tiny imprint Chatham Square, the second being the stunning Two Solo Pieces – an effort of constrained elegance, featuring single sided works for organ and flute. A near perfect product of its era, while entirely ahead of its time, the album defies the historic presumptions which favor the innovations of those with whom he often worked – framing Gibson as among the most radical and forward thinking composers of his generation. Cycles – a work for pipe organ, recorded in 1975 at the Washington Square Church in New York, realizes a world of Minimalist drone as it had yet to be heard – one which has largely come to define conceptions of the idiom in the years since. Reduced to duration and constraint that figures like Young, Riley, and Palestine had yet to tap, it’s a swirling immersive body of resonance and overtone – sonic structure and interplay reduced to its most elegant state. The album’s second side, unfurls an equally radical untitled work for solo flute – taking further steps against the architecture of presumption regarding Minimalism, with Gibson shifting toward the more complex tonal relationships and open structures that would sculpt the efforts of the coming generation of composers, particularly Julius Eastman and Arthur Russell, while nodding across the gap and tying a thread to free improvisation and jazz. Two Solo Pieces is a missing piece of the puzzle – the beginnings of what Minimalism and drone ultimately became. As seminal and essential as they come – a work of towering sonic beauty, and the wonders of art. You can check it out below, and pick it up from Superior Viaduct direct, or from SoundOhm.
Jon Gibson – Cycles, from Solo Pieces (1977)
Jon Gibson – Untitled, from Solo Pieces (1977)
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Propellers in Love (1986 / 2017)
Arnold Dreyblatt is one of the great architects of the second wave Minimalism. A student of Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, and Alvin Lucier, and a close friend and collaborator of Ellen Fullman, the bassist and composer was a definitive voice among the early 1980’s New York avant-garde, before relocating to Berlin in 1984. Recording shortly after his arrival and released by the Künstlerhaus Bethanien’s imprint for radical efforts in sound, his second album Propellers In Love stands as one of the most important works of its era – entirely rethinking the meaning and approaches of Minimalism. This tragically overlooked series of recordings present Dreyblatt as the crucial link between his own generation, and those who proceeded him – embracing the metronomic rhythms favored by Steve Reich, and the resonate harmonic structures of just intonation charted by La Monte Young, while moving toward more complex structures and tonal relationships which came to define the work of many of his peers. Featuring an ensemble – The Orchestra Of Excited Strings, playing percussion and stringed instruments largely adapted, modified, or prepared by Dreyblatt, Propellers In Love is a beating heart – a image of the diversity within the possible futures of the avant-garde. A single work which stretches across both of the album’s sides (divided into sic movements – Propellers In Love, Bowing, Pedal Tone Dance, Harmonics, Odd & Even, and Lucky Strike ), is a seething world of harmonic tone and ecstatic rhythm – the link between Charlemagne Palestine and the then emerging efforts of Glenn Branch, Rhys Chatham, and Terry Fox – a rising sea of complex overtone, and shimmering harmonic relationships. An absolutely incredible record – as good as Minimalism gets – immersive, overwhelming, and as accessible as it is challenging. The thought that it has been out of print on vinyl for nearly 35 years is nothing short of sin. You can check it out below, and pick it up from Superior Viaduct direct, or from SoundOhm.
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Propellers in Love, from Propellers in Love (1986)
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Bowing, from Propellers in Love (1986)
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Pedal Tone Dance, from Propellers in Love (1986)
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Harmonics, from Propellers in Love (1986)
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Odd & Even, from Propellers in Love (1986)
Arnold Dreyblatt and The Orchestra of Excited Strings – Lucky Strike, from Propellers in Love (1986)