Here at OBLADADA, the drone is perhaps the single most important element in sounds that really seem to go places. That illusion of sound in stasis, where the porous and layered fundamental nature of music has a mysterious effect on your brain and body. A wild heady bliss that comes from different elements all rendered almost indistinguishable from each other, whilst also revealing a subtle world actually brimming with huge contrast.
Elaine Radigue referred to this as ‘the flesh of sound’ and it’s true, drones give a listener time and space to see into an almost fractal level of detail. Tonic 18-01-2001, rises out of this whole trajectory, a recording that’s been lurking in the shadows for over two decades but the just intonation, precision tuned, unmistakable saw toothing of Tony Conrad’s violin instantly arcs right back to the source – mid 60’s New York.
Conrad was the axis for the Theatre of Eternal Music and the Velvet Underground (working closely with La Monte Young and John Cale). Informed with aspects from Indian music and elsewhere, radical ideas about tuning, harmonics, and all coated in a deeply psychedelic transportive coating. Music and principles that are still as potent today. Forget the Summer of Love, for us, this is the reason the 60’s remains seismic.
In that wake, Arnold Dreyblatt’s work sits completely compatible with that of Conrad’s, again his Orchestra of Excited Strings, locking into buzzing percussive patterning, propulsive forward motion, and mathematical tunings. And Jim O’Rourke here, at this point moving between Gastr Del Sol and Sonic Youth. Ever present in countless projects, whilst somehow striking gold everywhere.
In short, this is a trio you’d construct in your avant dreams…
What we end up with in this raw 40 minute track, somehow embracing the range of this backstory. Add the physical vocabulary of violin, double bass and hurdy gurdy, and we have music that dances atop a single atom. The human, breathing, analogue focus causing an organic wave of overlapping approximations – into a hand whittled laser beam.
In a way, the music here outlines the simplest of journeys, split for vinyl, I swells in a thick expanding heat haze and II slowly unpicks that same momentum back to silence…
At the heart of this recording is something incredibly fundamental, the phenomena of amplified sound accumulating and saturating a space. But it’s also somehow impossible to not notice, despite this overall effect, Tonic 19-01-2001 is a doorway into a tripping hall of mirrors. The sound of time, countless increments, vibrations, overtones, layers, sonic magic, all blossoming into something impossibly bigger than the sum of its parts.
This recording is also significant as its Black Truffle, (Oren Ambarchi’s record label of unfeasibly high quality) – 100th release, presumably chosen to suggest how significant this finally seeing the day is.
The matter of fact sleeve subtly says it all. Tonic 19-01-2001 works as a touching new tribute to Conrad (who passed away in 2016) but this album quickly gathers into a significant addition to all three member’s already stunning discographies.
Tonic 19-01-2001 is out now and available digitally or on vinyl here