Gary Kail – Zurich 1916 (Creative Nihilism)

A very personal musique concrete tour-de-force subtitled “Creative Nihilism – Studies in musique concrete 1979-1983” (Iridescence 1984), Gary Kail’s magnum opus brings to mind the recordings of the LAFMS and other bedroom tape-splicers of the pre-digital era.

The first record consists of Gary’s solo explorations, while the second one contains collaborations of his with other ‘creative people in the axis of the Los Angeles underground artistic musical community’.

The tracks vary greatly in atmosphere and sound but consistently maintain an aural friendliness and sense of humour that separates this kind of recording from the more sterile musique concrete exercises that had by this point been emanating from university labs for around 20 years. The opening chord from ‘A Hard Days Night’ features repeatedly on “It’s Been A” suggesting Terry Riley’s or Steve Reich’s experiments with tape loops, whereas “The Plastic Grapes” has some spirited Evan Parker-esque duck honk stabs that made me think of the late great Basil Kirchin. Other tracks feature snippets of FM radio, oscillators, recordings of a storm, spoken word, quite a few squiggly synth trails and enough reverb to swing a cat around in.

Gary’s liner notes state “You may find these works varying greatly in overall sound because they were recorded over a 4 1/2 year period. Generally my interests lie in taking one idea, exploiting it to a particular degree then finding no need to use the idea again in the same way”.


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