Richard Horowitz – Eros In Arabia (1981 / 2017)
Note: This is a modified and expanded review, originally published by SoundOhm
For those of us who began buying records in the era between the end of vinyl’s widespread commercial production in 1991, and the rise of blogs, Ebay, and Discogs, the last few years have been a jolt. Most of us began collecting vinyl for basic reasons. While older collectors and fans often championed the virtues of analog sound and the beauty of the object itself – things we also came to embrace, those of us who grew up in the era of cassettes and CDs were usually guided by simpler motives. LPs were incredibly cheap, allowing us to buy and explore more, coupled with the fact that they often housed music which couldn’t be found anywhere else – too obscure and strange to ever get re-released. While this culture has been fading for years – moving from the dusty shadows at the back of record shops and thrift stores, with information passed by word of mouth, to a landscape where seemingly any record can be discovered, listened to, and purchased with the click of a mouse, most could never have imagined what would transpire.
The vinyl revival has its detractors – those who call foul on sky-rocketing prices, bourgeois exclusivity and object fetish, the corruption of purity by a digital source, or any number of other critiques, but its worth remembering where so many of us began. Our love for the format was founded on a passion for music, with a desire to gain access, learn, and explore. Reissues have activated this – for ourselves and others, in ways we could have never dreamed.
In this light, the last few years have been a fantasy come true, particularity for those engaged with avant-garde, Minimalist, New Age, ambient, and electronic territories of sound. One after another, many of the rarest and most coveted LPs have emerged from the shadows. While a logical place to begin, to date, the market has largely veered toward releases whose location, categorization, and definition can be easily understood, offering less attention to members of these movements whose work falls into the spaces between. Fortunately, this is beginning to change. Of those embarking on this challenge, the fledgling imprint Freedom To Spend – the latest RVNG sub-imprint, has rapidly risen to the top. Following their reissues of Michele Mercure’s Eye Chant, Marc Barreca’s Music Works For Industry, and Pep Llopis’ Poiemusia La Nau Dels Argonautes, they’re back with what is arguably their most beautiful effort to date – a reissue of Eros In Arabia, Richard Horowitz’s stunning debut from 1981, originally privately issued on his own Ethnotech Records.
Even for dedicated fans of the avant-garde, Richard Horowitz’s name if fairly obscure, but, like many, he’s been there all along, laboring just out of view – bridging the territories of free-jazz and Minimalism, with the ambiences New Age. Between the late 1960’s and the early 80’s he lived in Paris and Morocco, spending much of the early 70’s dedicated to free-jazz, performing with Alan Silva’s Celestial Communications Orchestra, Steve Lacey, Anthony Braxton, Robin Kenyatta and Bobby Few, before recording his first solo effort, Oblique Sequences, at IRCAM, Pierre Boulez’s computer music studio in Paris, for Shandar Records. During the early 80’s he returned to America, falling into the circles around Lou Harrison and La Monte Young, and beginning a working relationship Jon Hassell, with whom he recorded and toured with extensively during that era.
Shortly following his return, Horowitz self-released his now legendary Eros In Arabia under the moniker Drahcir Ztiworoh. Pairing the ney cane flute with the Prophet-5 synthesizer, the album is singular in the canon of American avant-garde music – drawing on ancient musical traditions – those of Java, Rajasthan, Morocco, and the Sufis, microtonality and Minimalist technique, intertwined with ambiences and emotional depth of the New Age movement, with nods to Conlon Nancarrow and John Cage. It is a rippling hybrid of sonic brilliance, dancing the razors edge between chaos, chance, and tightly wound knots of organized structure.
Eros In Arabia is one of those records that many of us have been chasing for years, but never dared dream of its reissue. Its obscurity and neglect penetrated so deeply, that its rescue seemed impossible, unless undertaken by someone with wild, passionate recklessness that drives record collectors into the depths. Freedom To Spend is emerging as just such a thing, and for this we owe them a great dept. Eros In Arabia is arguably my favorite release by the imprint to date, and unquestionably one of the best reissues of the year. Filled with revelation, shimmering synthesizer passages, pulsing and hypnotic repetitive rhythms, and stunning flute cycles, the album is one of the true lost marvels of American Minimalism – long overlooked, and now entering the world in its rightful place. You can check out some samples below, pick it from Freedom to Spend, RVNG, SoundOhm, or a record store near you.
Richard Horowitz – Eros Never Stops Dreaming, from Eros In Arabia (1981 / 2017)
Richard Horowitz – Bandit Nrah Master Of Rajasthan, from Eros In Arabia (1981 / 2017)
Richard Horowitz – Elephant Dance, from Eros In Arabia (1981 / 2017)