Tuesday, 31 July 2018

SPK ‎– Zamia Lehmanni: Songs of Byzantine Flowers (1986)

Style: Industrial, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Side Effects, Normal

A1  Invocation (To Secular Heresies)
A2  Palms Crossed In Sorrow
A3  Romanze In Moll (Romance In A Minor Key)
A4  In The Dying Moments
B1  In Flagrante Delicto (Introduction)
B2  In Flagrante Delicto
B3  Alocasia Metallica
B4  Necropolis
B5  The Garden Of Earthly Delights

Graeme Revell - Composer, Engineer, Multi Instruments, Producer
Sinan - Voices
Brian Lustmord - Supervisor

SPK was the electronic/industrial/ambient brainchild of Graeme Revell - now known for his soundtrack music for numerous films and television programs. His sense of composition and orchestration (and I don't use that word in the traditional sense...) which are apparent in his current work have been present all along, to which this recording, originally released in 1986, will testify. This music is played/constructed/composed with creative brilliance and genius - there are many contemporary artists that owe a great debt to his pioneering work, and much of what passes for innovation in this genre doesn't hold a candle to this. 
Revell utilizes all sorts of sounds - keyboards, orchestral instruments, percussion, ethnic instruments from around the world, voices (including solo voices recorded specifically for this music, as well as altered recordings of choirs and altered and looped voices from primitive culture rituals), found sounds (ambience from a railway yard, clanking chains, printing factory noises, a child's swing, sheet metal) and recordings from nature (toads, crows), mixing them not at random, but with precision and skill and emotion, to form a cohesive whole that is nothing short of astonishing. The resulting music has elements of the sacred as well as the profane - it is darkness and light, possessed of a heavenly beauty and gut-wrenching power, subtle and overt. The loveliness of many passages will bring tears to the eyes - and a chill to the spine. 
Some of the notes from the CD insert are revelatory - a quote from Wellesz (from BYZANTINE MUSIC AND HYMNOGRAPHY) portrays Byzantium as `...the centre of civilization...' for Europe during the Dark Ages, `...and it now laid the foundation for the music of Christendom through a fusion of elements, religious and secular, eastern and western.' The image is an apt one - this recording is itself a blend of sounds from all over the world, an audio lens through which Revell shines the light of diverse cultures and belief systems, illuming the mind of the listener. There is also a verse quoted from `Byzantium' by W. B. Yeats, which expresses some of the mood of this album: 
`...by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
in glory of changeless metal
common bird or petal,
and all complexities of mire or blood.' 
The instruments (include in that definition: taped sounds) on this recording are played by Revell - the voices are by Sinan (who also appears on earlier SPK releases), Jan Thornton, and the Choir of the Russian Old Orthodox Church of the Holy Annunciation-Assumption of Sydney, Australia. There are voices that sound like they were recorded in perhaps Bali or Vietnam that have been made into loops - and Revell has done this with great care, preserving the rhythm of the lines sung so that the layers he has added contribute to that rhythm and feeling, rather than clash with it. Several of the tracks have an obvious influence of the Balinese gamelan orchestras, as well. 
The mood changes from track to track, from section to section of each piece - but it does so logically, never jarring the listener. It's easy to experience to this in a `trusting' way, allowing the composer/performer to lift the listener and pull him/her along on this journey. As some of the titles reflect, there is darkness to be found here - but there is also much light. This is a stunning sonic document.
 Larry L. Looney / amazon.com

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