Web of MimicrySecret Chiefs 3 : Book of Horizons (US,2004)*****
This is again an item from Secret Chiefs 3 who do justice to the complexity of music in general, no matter where it comes from: inspiration from the Middle East (Afghanistan,..), from 70’s orchestrated popular filmmusic, exotic surf, or even doom metal, up to contemporary music, with even touches of the avant-garde. In the final mix, all these inspirations show themselves in an energetic, multi-coloured, ever widening explorative musical expression, showing an energetic and often very new, but still, recognisable sound, which is a thrill to hear for the open minded “real” music lover. I don’t think the concept makes it difficult music at all, although it’s not meant for those who take things too easy. It is exactly small-or narrow-mindedness which perhaps is the only thing that can keep more from loving this music. It’s so filled up with the detail I’ll describe more some of my impressions.
On “The End Times” we hear acoustic guitar, electric piano and ‘musical saw’ nicely playing the entry for a track which idiots would too simply define as being “exotic”, played with santur (-Persian siter instrument-), esraj (-an Indian instrument between saringda and sitar-), sarangi, harp, bass and percussion. This is followed by one of my favourite tracks, “Ishraqiyun –The four” played with a middle eastern rock touch, and with great complex arrangements, with Middle Eastern percussion & drums, rabab (-Afghan / Indian string instrument-), saz, esraj, viola, microtone guitar, electric bass and keyboards. Like “the 3” a bit later, this is how I prefer to hear middle eastern mucic (into modern standards) ! It has all the best of it, with a portion of Indian and Western music ideas, perfectly in blend, with respect to and for the best strength of the performance of the original tune. After a filmic (partly world-)electro-acoustic track called “The indestructible drop” we hear something completely different with “Exterminating Angel” : an extreme over-the top doom-metal track, with touches of classical arrangements -they seem to have derived from Penderecki and Arvo Pärt-. Yes, why not ? Every track seems to have its own symbol and esoteric signs interconnected with each other, and that’s how the music feels as well : it goes from one area to another, but still is very connected, comparable to the chambers in a house. “The Owl in the daylight” after that, has some kind of very well arranged neo-metal orchestrations, and some Rock-In-Opposition aspects fused to something else -if you like. Difficult to figure out everything which is happening at the core, without listening very carefully, and without an in-depth attention. “The Exile” is partly a keyboard and guitars orchestrated piece, close to what Gothic often attempts but hardly ever succeeds in obtaining much expressiveness. So here the result is much much better excluded, in combination with some ‘Western’ filmmusic. On “On the Wings of the Hoama” we hear a very advanced conceptual mix of what has world music elements (Indian & Middle Eastern), contemporary music, usual arranged filmmusic as well as avant-garde filmmusic, with a kind of avant-garde middle eastern rock fragment in it, with some surf rock inspiration, etc, in all its fragments still hanging well enough together. This will go fluently over into “Book T: Exodus”, a very nice Morricone like arrangement of an Ernst Gold track, with a surf guitar touch held at the background. (Guests here are William Winant, Jesse Geere, and others..). “Hypostasis of the Archons” after that, has again aggressive doom metal inspirations, as brilliant and expressive and as composed as the other tracks. It is supposed to be written by “The Ennemy” (with Hesse Quatro, Jessica Kinney, a howling singer called Unhuman and a “composer” called, almost symbollically,The Ennemy). This gets the illustration of a traditional Islamic figure of a devilish figure wrapped in fire and with knives (-forgot his name-). “The 3” after that is a brilliant Afghan (?) tune adaptation played somewhat with a middle eastern rock touch, and with great complex arrangements, like middle eastern percussion & drums, santur (-Persian siter instrument-), rabab, electric bass, sitar guitar, clavinet (-which is a kind of electric piano with the sound of an electronically amplified clavichord-), and 'add’l daf' (-whatever that is?-). Like I said before, this is middle eastern rock at its best! “DJ Revisionist” is a combination of very exotic surf with contemporary music and electro-acoustic fragments (-like background firework, experimentally mixed sounds,...-), with middle eastern orchestral and band arrangements, ... Filmic in a initiative way. “Antropomorphis : Boxleitner” then, is another great mix of a kind of loaded orchestrations, that would also fit well to the better metal, with electro(nic)and other rhythms, with filmic inspiration, and touches of surf bass and, how shall I name this..more fuzzed sounds, with even more middle eastern touches here and there and perhaps even some kind of dancerock to it. “Welcome to the Theatron Animatronique” has a brilliant filmic orchestration recalling some 70’s movies with an assiociation of sounds to a funfair. It also has a great arranged choral part.
The complete core is captivating from start to end ! In times where different musical elements are often nothing but exploitation, this is a serious work of art. It's modern enough, and it is aggressive and refined enough to blow away the most artificial prejudgments and expectations from any critics.
I repeat that this is brilliant work. With “Book of M” (reviewed a bit above) or is also a must-have.
The references to this recording on its own are interesting as well. Responsible for this recording and group are composer/producer Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle) who composed most of the material, Eyvind Kang, composer, viola/violinist (he played before with Sun City Girls, Neti-Neti Band, Bill Frisell ,Laurie Anderson ; studied with Michael White and the Indian Dr. N. Rajam , and has now a solo record on Tzadik), Danny Heifetz (Dieselhed, Mr. Bungle), Shazad Ismaily (Nels Cline, Barbez, Brian Eno, Air, Elysian Fields), William Winant (avant-garde percussionist, who cooperated with John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Keith Jarrett, Anthony Braxton, James Tenney, Cecil Taylor, Steve Reich, Jean-Philippe Collard, Frederic Rzewski, Ursula Oppens, Joan LaBarbara, Kronos String Quartet to Sonic Youth, Yo Yo Ma. He now is percussionist for John Zorn’s Chamber Ensemble Xenakis ; he himself covered music varying from Pauline Oliveros, Karlheinz Stockhausen, to Souxie and the Banshees), Phil Franklin (Barbara Manning, Sunburned Hand of the Man), John Merriman (Cephalic Carnage), Ches Smith (Theory of Ruin, Good For Cows), Unhuman, Ursula Knudesen with her musical saw, with on "DJ Revisionist" : Timb Harris, Ches Smith, Jennifer Cass, Rich Doucette, and on "Electrotheonic Grail Dove" also Tom Smolens.