Gods of Electricity - "Sundiving"
(Faith Strange Recordings 2005, fs6)
From Aural Innovations #33 (March 2006)
Guitarist/synthesist/composer Mike Fazio, whose ambient guitar project Orchestramaxfieldparrish (yes, that's how it's written) was one of last year's pleasant surprises, teams up with percussionist Thomas Hamlin for a wonderfully synergistic exploration of the possibilities of electro-acoustic sound sculpture in the age of the ever-shrinking computer chip. Though Gods of Electricity clearly have identifiable antecedents (including the divine Bill Nelson, the ever enigmatic Eno, as well as such neo-classicists as Ligeti and Penderecki), both Fazio and Hamlin create a music that is at once unclassifiable and strangely engaging. In fact, Sundiving is thoroughly absorbing, creating a hallucinatory landscape for the senses and a sanctuary for the information-overloaded spirit of our increasingly hyperaccelerated world. Punctuated with huge modular drones, sweeping atmospheric pads and array of tuned and untuned percussives, the five pieces on Sundiving create the icy chill of deep astral regions and resonate with the illuminated echoes of inward vistas. Like both Robert Rich and Lustmord, Gods of Electricity are aural alchemists who distill and synthesize strange new properties from the elements of sound. This is nowhere more evident than on "Clouds of Granite in a Clearing Sky," the centerpiece of Sundiving, an intoxicating voyage through the ever shifting terrain of yawning cosmic silences penetrated by bursts of sound both structured and unstructured. Ligeti's Atmospheres and Lux Aeterna are clear references one can invoke to describe this piece, though perhaps a more apt analogy would be to the imaginary music made by the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey: utterly alien and otherworldly yet somehow vaguely human in its unearthliness. Comprising nearly two-thirds of the entire album and clocking in at a daunting 38:14, "Clouds…" features an astonishing array of discrete movements collated into a massive block of sound, perhaps the sonic equivalent of a gigantic prism reflecting its numerous hues throughout the tonal continuum. It's a dreamy mix of the dark and the light, the spacious and the claustrophobic, the harmonic and the cacophonic, all driven by the kind of random precision that makes such music adventurous, yet difficult for the uninitiated. The more down-to-earth pieces (relatively speaking, of course) showcase the percussive talents of Hamlin, straying occasionally into more palatable regions of ambient, trance and drum 'n' bass. More rhythmically complex in construction, "Slick-o-phonic" and "The Sound You Make When You Reach for Tomorrow" are enjoyable digressions and, at least to these jaded ears, much preferable to the thoughtless sonic drivel of better known, though lesser talented, ambient/trance artists. "Sundiving," the disc's concluding track, continues the accent on electro-rhythm, though incorporates more of the airy dissonance of the album's initial tracks. It's an effective merger of Fazio's penchant for oblique harmony and Hamlin's industrial-strength approach to cybernetic drumming. In short, Sundiving is highly recommended, especially for aficionados of the eccentric and the innovative. Hopefully, Gods of Electricity will turn out to be more than just a galvanizing one-shot.
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Reviewed by Charles Van de Kree