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17 Feb 2017

John Cale & Terry Riley “Church Of Anthrax” 1971 UK Art Rock Minimal, Avantgarde,Experimental

John Cale & Terry Riley “Church Of Anthrax” 1971 UK  Art Rock Minimal, Avantgarde,Experimental
A one-time-only collaboration between former Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale and minimalist composer Terry Riley, 1971's Church of Anthrax doesn't sound too much like the solo work of either. Around this time, Riley's works were along the lines of "A Rainbow in Curved Air" or "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band": pattern music with an obsessive attention to repetition and tricks with an analogue delay machine that gave his music a refractory, almost hallucinogenic quality. Though Cale was trained in a similar aesthetic (he played with La Monte Young, surely the most minimal of all minimalist composers), he had largely left it behind by 1971, and so Church of Anthrax mixes Riley's drones and patterns with a more muscular and melodic bent versed in both free jazz and experimental rock. Not quite modern classical music, but not at all rock & roll either, Church of Anthrax sounds in retrospect like it was a huge influence on later post-minimalist composers like Andrew Poppy, Wim Mertens, and Michael Nyman, who mix similar doses of minimalism, rock, and jazz. On its own merits, the album is always interesting, and the centerpiece "The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles" is probably the point where Riley and Cale approach each other on the most equal footing. The low point is Cale's solo writing credit, "The Soul of Patrick Lee," a slight vocal interlude by Adam Miller that feels out of place in these surroundings..... by Stewart Mason .........

Leaving the Velvet Underground after being a major force on their first two seminal albums, Welsh multi-instrumentalist John Cale forged a collaborative relationship with the band's sometime-frontwoman Nico, resulting in two of her keystone albums, The Marble Index and Desertshore. In 1970, Cale launched his own solo career on Columbia Records with a collection of art-pop songs entitled Vintage Violence. His next for Columbia would be this collaborative album, enlisting master loopist Terry Riley, who was on the roster of Columbia's parent, CBS records.

Many years ago, I once talked with Terry Riley after one of his shows. In our conversation, I mentioned "the album with John Cale," in a sly attempt to elicit some recollections or impressions. His response: "Yes! Church of Anthrax! [half-mirthful, half-exasperated laughter]" That was all.

Despite this inscrutable reaction, Church of Anthrax is a fairly straightforward meeting of the two artists' worlds. The extended instrumentals are easily the best thing about this one. The title track, my own personal favorite, starts off like a jam in the tradition of the VU, with Cale's gruff bass lines prominent in the mix. Over this base, Riley enters with some funky, psychedelic organ that after about a minute and a half, starts going into conniptions, notes jittering like marbles spilling out on a floor every which way. As the piece builds, sax enters flirting with the organ lines and everything gets looser and looser.

The drum work, by the way, adds quite a bit to this track with a jazzy energy and blending with Riley's organ spasms. Another great piece, "The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles" places Cale behind the keys, pounding out block chords on piano. To this Riley adds spacey, trilly sax in the A Rainbow in Curved Air vein, one track in each channel, giving the impression of a ritual call between two animals.

Finally, "Ides of March" is a good though somewhat overlong jam split-channeling the duo's keyboard styles. Riley plays treated piano in the left speaker, flittering obsessively and polyrhythmically among certain note cycles. Cale again plonks out alongside this with rhythm piano in the right speaker. Each channel is backed by separate drumming. Written by Cale alone, "The Soul of Patrick Lee" interestingly features an outside vocalist, although the song has Cale's sound stamped all over it in the lyrics and melody, so that you can easily envision him singing it. It's clearly placed in that era of his songwriting, sounding like a decent holdover from Vintage Violence, and also holding the lantern up to Paris 1919.

This strikes me as a pretty interesting pairing of two fellow avant-garders with two quite different personas: Riley, the convivial cosmic explorer of Eastern music; and Cale, the moody mercenary of violence-in-sound. While probably not the best from either artist, it's good for what it is: two legends at work and fairly early in their careers, too.
by Joe McGlinchey...............

 Of the small handful of albums that have been made by rock 'stars' working in conjunction with renowned composers, Church of Anthrax is easily the most successful, and enjoyable as well. It helps that it was not a far leap from Riley's groovy beatnik flavored Indo-Minimalism to Cale's minimal influenced avant drone-rock. The two fit together to create a proto fusion raga groove that is way ahead of it's time in relation to all the trip-hop, world beat, ambient techno and acid jazz that followed in it's wake a couple decades later. Having said all that, if I had to pick one band that comes to mind when listening to this, it would be The Soft Machine on their first three records, there is a similar mix of beatnik-jazz and electronic flavored experimentation.
Side one kicks off with the title cut that sets the mood for Indian influenced hippie jazz/rock with Cale and Riley's droning modal solos interweaving with each other while the drummers work up a sweat. This is followed by Hall of Mirrors, a vast sound canvas of minimalistic wash filled with tape echo multi-tracked soprano saxophones. Mike Ratledge and Elton Dean have said that Terry Riley was a big influence on them and you can really here it on this track.

Side two opens with a classic John Cale haunting vocal melody, The Soul of Patrick Lee, that shows once again that in his prime Cale was probably the finest art rock composer ever. My favorite cut on the album though is Ides of March. An absolute ironic masterpiece that combines hypnotic minimalist repeating rhythmic figures with tacky hillbilly honky-tonk piano riffs and lot's of rock-n-roll pounding on the keys while the drummers rock out acid hippy style. This is a one-of-a-kind cut that answers the question, what it would sound like if a drunken Steve Reich led NRBQ for a jam at a rowdy biker bar in the country.

The album closes with The Protégé, another piano number, this time with a Velvet Underground primitive groove while the classically trained Riley and Cale pound out their favorite RnB flavored piano riffs that are layered in that expected Terry Riley way.. This album does have a very late 60s sound to it, but ironically enough, that doesn't stop it from sounding modern and ahead of it's time to this js (Easy Money) ................

A stunning second album, this Church Of Anthrax is easily Cale's top achievement in his career, even if this is just another album for Terry Riley. Let me explain before you hurl a bunch of insults at me. For John Cale, this album is one of a kind and doesn't resemble close to any other of his album and to my knowledge, he never tried to return to it, nor did he actually ever played much of it in his concerts. But for Terry Riley, this minimalist music is certainly not one of a kind, and you can definitely hear his paws all over the pieces and his sax playing is the typical one heard in A Rainbow In Curved Air (just to mention that one) and just another groundbreaking album in a career that contains many of them. The album comes with a fascinating doll house artwork, with Cale occupying te rooms a, but Riley's presence is felt through picture frames hanging on the walls.
A two-man show except for the voice of Adam Miller in the only sung track, with Cale handling most of the instruments other than electric keyboards and wind instruments, which are Riley's domain. Starting on the awesome title track that builds quickly from a drone, the music soon takes on a very repetitive turn, even though it is constantly evolving. It is not quite the usual minimalism that one might be understand it, but it is certainly among the best ever recorded. The track is fast paced upon a solid bass riff with excellent drumming and doubled over by a wandering organ, while the other instruments are counterpointing?. Soon Riley's sax is coming in, never loud always a bit low in the mix as not to be intrusive. As you've probably guessed it, the amount of over-dubbing must be considerable on such an album, laying each instruments one after the other and ending up filling totally the aural space in both your living room and your now-frying brains. The following Hall Of Mirrors is a bit in the same nature only quieter and slower, due to the absence of bass and drums and ends slowly of its evident faded-out death.

The flipside starts on a welcome breath of fresh air (even more evident on the Cd version) with the superb Soul Of Patrick Lee, a short track sung beautifully by the otherwise unknown (to me anyway) Adam Miller. This Cale-penned track has nothing to do with the rest of the album co-written between the two artistes, and if it wasn't so excellent, it would stick out like a sore thumb on an otherwise uniform album. Next up is Ides Of March is a brutal return to the album musical propos, probably the most violent of these minimalist pieces and it probably overstays its welcome for about one or two of its 11 minutes, because it fails to renew itself like the earlier tracks on side 1. The album-closing Protégé seems like a break from the mould, but its minimalism is right on the album soundscape again. This track might seem a little short, and could've used the few minutes too much of its predecessor. It is ending abruptly in a feedback and torn cables plugs, quite an unexpected death, but a valid one to avoid another fade-out.

Church Of Anthrax is definitely an odd minimalist music masterpiece, probably the best and main reason why John Cale's presence in our beloved Archives was needed. It is too bad that the Welsh multi-instrumentalist never considered returning to this kind of experiment, but then again, this one is so successful, that most likely a second attempt would only have been worse and tarnished the varnish of this Sean Trane ...............

 In 1969 John McClure, the leader of CBS Masterworks, had a revolutionary idea to bring together these two figures from New York's avantgarde circles to make an album. The Welsh John Cale had naturally been in Velvet Underground, and Terry Riley had released his highly influential albums In C and A Rainbow in Curved Air that are connected to the minimalistic movement. The improvisation- based collaboration worked well until all of a sudden, during the mixing, Riley felt his ideas weren't taken seriously enough and bitterly walked out of the unfinished project. Before the album was finally released in 1971, Cale had already released his debut Vintage Violence.
The end result is however closer to the mentioned Riley works than anything Cale has ever since done as a solo artist. According to Cale he dug out the funk hidden in Riley's hypnotic patterns of organ and soprano saxophone. Whatever, this unique fusion of minimalism, experimental rock and free jazz is not as hard to digest as one could expect. There are three longer tracks between nearly eight and eleven minutes - my favourite is probably the title track - plus two short ones. The other of them, 'The Soul of Patrick Lee', is written by Cale only and features the vocals of Adam Miller. It feels somewhat out of place amidst the more innovative material. The album's total running time is approximately 33 minutes only, but that doesn't prevent it being an interesting work that has fully deserved its cult status. Esoteric Recordings' re-release features a detailed essay - and this little review is translated from my article on ER's numerous recent releases. Sorry to give very little information on how I personally was impressed by this album. I guess I like it to some degree but can live very well without it Matti ..........

This unlikely collaboration between the Velvet Underground's violist and the minimalist composer most famous for writing In C didn't sound much like either of them: the album was largely stretched-out organ-heavy improvisations, a freak-out in slow motion. We lamented that the world had been ignoring "one of the finest records to be released this year." Cale went on to make many excellent solo albums, while Riley, just as prolific, also inspired (and was name-checked in the title of) the Who's "Baba O'Riley."
What We Said Then: "'The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles' is a perfect title for a piece of music whose piano introduction is an introduction to the reflected wonders of all that the past, present and future has to offer. Riley's saxophone is mirrored in and out of infinite halls that only the gods have dared enter, an icy environment fit for contemplation of the cosmos. This is music to carry the mind and heart of the listener away." — W. H. Fuller III, RS 91 (September 16, 1971) Stone...........

That might have been their label’s head’s idea, but there was something spiritual in the meeting of Terry Riley and John Cale, something that went beyond the two’s classical background and avant-garde leanings with inroads into rock. Much more fleshed out than the former’s "In C" and "A Rainbow In Curved Air" and not as gloomy as the latter’s work with VELVET UNDERGROUND, “Church Of Anthrax” failed to garner the accolades it deserved – recorded largely in 1969, it was released in 1971, after Cale’s solo debut, “Vintage Violence” – and led to its creators’ falling-out only to stand as the testament to their unique talents. A blend of these also stands the minimalistic idiom on its head because there’s so much going on here, many twists and turns being hinted at in rather sly way.

One such passage lies in the only vocal track on display, “The Soul Of Patrick Lee” – the line “and the Miller never showed her a face that didn’t know” sounds very much like reference to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" to chain the result to pop culture – while the other leads to “The Hall Of Mirrors In The Palace At Versailles” where, opulence reserved for heavy-lidded piano and Riley’s multi-tracked sax, all reflections turn out adventurously distorted. The same goes for the title track which marries cathedral solemnity, hung on organ swirl as performed by both protagonists, to an infectious groove anchored with Cale’s bass that spills over into the Brechtian debauchery of “The Protégé” and, earlier, the 11 minutes of the “Ides Of March” boogie jam. So there’s a lot of fun in this sickly sacred place, quite an unexpected quality for the master minds behind it, it’s human to the core and, as such, belatedly welcomes reappraisal..................

*John Cale - Keyboards, Bass Guitar, Harpsichord, Piano, Guitar, Viola, Organ
*Terry Riley - Piano, Organ, Soprano Saxophone
*Adam Miller - Vocals On "The Soul Of Patrick Lee"
*Bobby Colomby - Drums
*Bobby Gregg - Drums

Tracklist Hide Credits
A1 Church Of Anthrax 9:00
A2 The Hall Of Mirrors In The Palace At Versailles 7:55
B1 The Soul Of Patrick Lee
Vocals – Adam Miller
B2 Ides Of March 11:03
B3 The Protege 2:47

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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