Monday, July 30, 2007

Church of Anthrax

It's rare that a John Cale composition evokes Kraftwerk, but the title track of 1971's collaboration with Terry Riley, Church of Anthrax, achieves just that.

Sounding for all the world like Ruckzuck's overly shrill little cousin, "Church of Anthrax" piles on just a few too many instruments for the static nature of its main modal progressions. It's a fun listen, but the high-pitched organ irritates and distracts from the clever and brawny exchange going between the bass and... er, prepared piano? or horns, or something. (It's a strange sound, but a good one.) The piece's component parts drift further and further from one another as the song goes on, and don't really mesh again until halfway through. That's four and a half minutes. Once they mesh, they do nothing much in particular for the next two and a half minutes. It's a pleasant nothing much, but such things only go so far. A low drone comes in at the seven minute mark and swells, adding haunting brass, while everything else fades, and the song finally falls apart. It's a satisfying ending.

What's cool is that Terry Riley's playing the organ here, so I can't blame Cale for the worst bits.

Its flaws aside, it's quite odd to hear a Krautrock piece by John Cale. The "Krauts" had been working for a while at that point, so it wasn't all that original, but it's surprising anyway. He never did come close to this style again. It's a shame: there are some good ideas here, and it appears many of them were his. I wouldn't sacrifice any of his Seventies albums for the great lost Cale prog-rock album (OK, maybe this one), but I'd be interested to hear it.

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