Morphogenesis - "In Streams: Live and Studio Recordings Volumes 1 and 2 1997-2001" (Paradigm Recordings, UK, #16 & 17)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
During the 1960s, two different streams of thought in the composition and performance of Electronic Music developed within the Academic Avant-Garde. One emphasized a joining of ideas regarding the incorporation of Aleatory Improvisation, the other more traditionally oriented utilizing precisely placed sonic events. Pursued by bands/composers such as Musica Ellectronica Viva, Groupo Nova Constanza, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hans Werner Henze, AMM, and in America the work of the LA-based Negative Band, the use of improvisation opened new doors out of the traps of Western Classical composition, but this direction seemed to lose favor during the mid-to-late 1970s.
With the rise of so-called "Post Punk", a few Rockers began to follow these directions; Throbbing Gristle (in their case, it may be more inspiration by Hawkwind rather than Stockhausen), Whitehouse and SPK started to work in areas of atonality and improvisation, but these projects were still-born due to the lack of ability on their instruments (i.e. They couldn't play!!!), and their flirtations with Nihilism, Fascist imagery, downright Junior High school shock techniques or thinly-veiled sexual pornography!. They did spawn a series of imitators during the 1980s; calling their work "Industrial", most of this movement were merely untutored losers engaged in using the (then) new 4-track Cassette recorders to engage in Audio masturbations!
I became aware of the work of MORPHOGENESIS in 1986, when my group (ALIEN PLANETSCAPES) began to release our tapes on the Sound of Pig Cassette label. Founder Al Margolis gave us a number of recordings of bands he thought worked in similar areas to AP. Some were great, some were trash, but MORPHOGENESIS stood out as working in the area of the aforementioned innovators without the moaning nihilistic BS of so many of the "industrialists!" And by golly, they could actually play well enough to make the music quite challenging!
Over the years, there has been a stream of releases, including a noteworthy LP in 1988, ("Prochronisms", on Pogus Records) and a few more Cassette releases followed. More recently come these two CDs, which were released in the UK during 2001, and they give a very high account of the positive progression of the band's music. Adam Bohman, Ron Breifel, Roger Sutherland, and Clive Hall are the main protagonists, and their performances, both live and in studio, unfold with the same beauty as an Olivia Butler novel. The band both creates its own Electronic Music circuits, as well as using Synthesizers, Tapes, found instruments, Transistor radios, a piano frame and various effects devices to conjure up worlds of sound that are elastic, shifting and bending to bring the listener new experiences!
Rhythm becomes implied in this musical context, based on the shifting textures rather than performing metric functions, and there is never a "lead" instrument, but the ability to react to the others is what makes the music so successful! The band credits some well-known names in experimental music (Eddie Prevost, Sonic Youth) on some of the live dates, leading me to believe that the band plays a variety of venues to very diverse audiences. (In the UK, venues are often mixed, with many different types of bands appearing together, something that has been lost in the States).
Both of these CDs have no dead spots musically, but the music does demand the listener pay close attention, and a little knowledge of the history of Improvisational Electronic Music doesn't hurt. To new initiates to this music, welcome, MORPHOGENESIS is a good place to start. The CDs can be found at various stores that specialize in Avant-Garde Music, or through Wayside Distribution at http://www.cuneiformrecords.com.
Reviewed by Doug Walker