Bryant Park Moratorium Rally
Fantastic Glissando

[Table of the Elements,]

Outside The Dream Syndicate Alive

[Table of the Elements,]

October 15th, 1969. Climax of the Vietnam War. Tony Conrad is sitting in his 42nd Street 5th floor loft. He has one microphone positioned outside of his window where an anti-war rally is just starting. The other microphone is pointing directly at his TV set. "Bryant Park Moratorium Rally" is a 50 minute continual recording exhuming an important phase in American history. What's more, it shows something else that is rather interesting. The sounds of the protest from the TV set comes in a split second faster than the actual live feed of the rally from outside of Conrad's window. This begs several questions. Was the rally custom made for TV?Was the TV event more successful than the rally?Was the media covering the rally already infused with a political bias?As the rally continues, we hear chants of protestors, various speeches being made by politicians, musicians and actors. The ears are split between the rally outside and the one "happening" live on TV. Which is more real?Which is more to the point and hard-hitting?Which will sway the American public to turn onto their elected politicians to ensure they get their troops out of Vietnam?Oddly enough, as I listen to this document over and over again, I notice the chants of the protesters are barely heard on Conrad's TV. Strange.
Same year as the previous record saw Conrad experimenting with extreme forms of minimalism. "Fantastic Glissando" catches him use a sine wave oscillator processed through a pump counter. Single stereo-phase glissando fills the ears during the initial phase of the record. As the ears hum and as a drilling notion is established, new waves are added in subsequent pieces. As more layers are added, the buzzing becomes thicker and more textured. By the third piece "Process Two of Fantastic Glissando", the humming is akin to a swarm of bees. In another ten minutes, it sounds like a huge airplane engine, revving up, and reading for take off. As the piece becomes louder and more abrasive, you realize just how much can be done with so little. All Conrad has really done is he has slowed the piece down in half and processed the results through a pump counter. Final piece brings to mind much of the noise scene for the last few years. I'm sure people like Voicecrack and Merzbow have taken Conrad to be one of their idols. Respect then goes out to this little though crucial experiment that set the world on fire with the love of all that is minimal and gorgeous.
Apparently Tony Conrad met Faust only three times. Once was a recording of their 1972 "Outside the Dream Syndicate" LP, while the other two times involved live concerts during the mid 90's. The last of these concerts - recorded at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall - is finally documented on "Outside the Dream Syndicate Alive". Proportionally, this is a momentous blast. Not an easy listen, but not a difficult one for those familiar with Conrad's artistry, the album is a full-on force that is brazen and outrageously bold. Conrad starts off by establishing a drone-like violin glissando on his instrument. This continues on for about ten minutes, when he's joined by drummer Werner 'Zappi' Diermaier and bassist Jean-Herve Peron. Between the determined pulse kept by Diermaier on the skins and Peron's persistent, stubborn pounding on the bass strings, you feel as if this monotonous theme can't continue for much longer. But it does, my friends. Indeed it does as there's Jim O'Rourke making the same drone-inducing, hypnotic lines on his violin. I remember seeing Conrad in a duo with Jim O'Rourke in the summer of 95 [few months after this performance]. It was every bit as sharp as dissonant as this recording, though I wish Faust could've joined them if only for a little bit. This syncopated drone continues for another forty minutes, when the whole place comes apart as the drummer destroys his set, while Peron smashes a brick with a sledgehammer. At this point, the hall is attacked by chaos as fans and those in opposition heckle and scream at each other and the musicians. What's funnier still is all of this is captured on the disc. After all the shouts have subsided, the band comes back for an eight minute scraping, abusive encore. What follows is simple shouts and more heckling from the confused audience who has just witnessed something most of us can only dream about.

-Tom Sekowski

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