From Aural Innovations #14 (January 2001)
No lie, this might be the most historically significant music release of the last 20 years. This recording represents the ONLY released output of the Dream Syndicate (no relation to the great early-80s guitar-rock band of the same name), the avant-garde group that coexisted with the Fluxus art movement (which included Yoko Ono) and the free jazz scene (Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler, etc.) on the fringes of early-sixties New York City cultural life. John Cale and Angus Maclise went on to co-found the Velvet Underground with Cale's co-worker, Lou Reed (Maclise soon left the band to be replaced by Maureen Tucker because it was too structured and/or commercial for him!), Tony Conrad continued as an avant-garde violinist (and may be known to Aural Innovations readers for his collaborative album with Faust), while LaMonte Young also continued as a highly-regarded avant-garde composer who also, criminally (in the artistic sense), exerted the legal efforts that kept these tapes from being released for 35 years.
Those familiar with Cale's viola drones with the VU ("Venus In Furs"), the Conrad/Faust album, or most any of Young's works, will already know to expect the highest form of celestial drone. Granted, this 30-minute recording was salvaged from ancient tapes, which would have been unreleasable without the extensive noise reduction used (and it still sounds like a bootleg), and much of the subtly-shifting timbre that makes a pure drone compelling has been lost, but even disregarding the historic importance (remember "Ecstasy Symphony" or "Dreamweapon" by Spacemen 3? Pure Dream Syndicate derivations), this is still a fantastic piece of deeply ecstatic sound, despite the fidelity issues. Half the roots of the Velvet Underground lie here (for the other half, listen to 'Soundsville' or any other of the compilations of cash-in pop songs that Reed and Cale helped manufacture for their employers at Pickwick).
For more information you can visit the Table of the Elements web site.
Reviewed by Doug Pearson