Whenever I think to myself about the concept of electronic spiritualism in music, I'm always aware of the subjectivity of the mental progression involved. Of course I'm aware that the age of electronics has altered our mental processes and worldviews forever, I know that the definitions of "honesty" and "meaning" are cloudier and less clear than they were, and I know I'm not listening to field recordings. But on the other hand I don't want pure PoMo proud meaninglessness, I aim for something higher than the ostentatious of Momus's NY clique, I don't want to feel that the person who's recorded the music is doing it purely as a jape between art exhibitions. And I remember that the only truly Arthurian music I've ever heard was recorded by Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk/radiophonic.htm) for the soundtrack of The Changes, and I wonder what an American equivalent would sound like.
And this is it, roughly. Opening track "The River" sets up the mood, a piece whose twirling, swirling, ever-shifting course accurately reflects its title. We're on a journey, and when we enter "The Shame Village" the nature of the people in this narrative becomes slowly clearer. It is clearly a strange and fascinating place, where people seem a long way from most contemporary ideas of "normality" or "modernity". Perhaps we've recently seen some kind of puritannical abandonment of the car, or a return to medievalism; if we haven't gone that far, we sense that something tragic will soon happen here. "The Concubines" are shadowy characters, pretty much social outcasts, walking down the village street slowly and nervously, as if they know how everyone else perceives them.
Every piece here actually evokes everything its title describes, which is a rare thing. "The Death From Grief" sounds like the ritual dance of the grieving relatives, the sound of their lament. "Guilt" slowly builds up terror, before "The First Suicide" sounds exactly as that phrase suggests; harshly climactic and ominous in its implications. The ear-scraping high-pitched synth sound that ends the song is so clearly and obviously the sound of the exact moment of death.
Frustratingly rare at the moment, this is a record to cherish. Electronic spirits may not live in Momus's current work as much as he might think, but they are defiantly alive here.
Robin Carmody, 21st February 2001
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