It’s become my habit, when reviewing a new release from Radio Free Clear Light, to let JC Mendazabal, the mad sonic genius behind this ever-shifting collaborative, explain what it’s about. So: “This project was inspired both by RFCL’s prodding into the history of those heterodoxical sects termed Gnostic as well as a creative analysis of Umberto Eco’s linguistic parable The Name Of The Rose.” Out of that comes another round of funky experimentation that glides between uneasy, skewed dreamscapes and subtly beat-based chill. The more drifiting pieces, like “Seven Trumpets” or “Adso Tastes Ox Heart,” are heavily layered and in constant motion, putting the listener into a very dynamic space that’s easy to visualize. (Don’t worry about the minor hallucinations if they come; it’s par for the course with RFCL.) Instruments are distorted and reborn, voices wail and cry , long, thin drones make their way along the foundation. A sense of sacred music creeps in with the chant-like quality of the voices, and viola from Colin Hamilton and Elanna Sack offer a sort of neo-classical, chamber music angle. Their sounds are beautiful and a trifle mournful. Mendazabal and Co. do a great job of balancing the softened-brain mesmerism brought on by the drone with a rich and real aural environment that you want to pay attention to. The detailing, as always, is superb. The centerpiece here is the 10-minute, smooth and slightly eerie “Penitenziagite.” moves along on a steady and hypnotic three-note bass line. Drums shuffle in the background and Lydia Harari ululates a wordless incantation in a sometimes uncomfortably screechy voice. (Mind you, it works for the piece.) An arpeggio dots the flow and amps up the rhythmic side. It’s a weird and wonderful piece that encapsulates what RFCL is about–layering the familiar with the mildly frightening and the comfortable with the alien. And once again, it works. Put on your experiment-friendly ears and dive in.
Available from Black Note Music.