One of the more recent discoveries in the psych/prog collector scene. The album has multiple songs on each side, but really they play like suites and end up creating side long pieces. The first side is (well, at least to me) the better of the two sides. That’s the side that people use the Floyd and King Crimson comparisons for. The majority of the side involves guitars and an electric violin. Around 2/3’s of the way into the side A it turns into more of a hard rock feel for a few minutes before ending. The second side isn’t that great. It’s not as focused, and offers more of a rural feel at times which isn’t my cup of tea…..by…6 Star Rarities ………
Pan Symphony in E Minor is the kind of album that hardcore vinyl collectors – especially those whose specialty is esoteric psych-prog relics of the ‘60s and ‘70s – talk about using terms like “holy grail.” Such has been the rarity of the barely released 1974 recording that the few available copies floating around years later, after its legend had begun to grow, commanded high prices among serious record geeks. Fortunately, 36 years after its release, the music that upstate New Yorker William Nowik made during a brief recording session under spartan circumstances was made widely available on CD. Originally conceived as the possible soundtrack to a film whose projected theme was the Greek god Pan, the album was recorded mostly by multi-instrumentalist Nowik, who plays everything from guitar and violin to pump organ and kalimba, with some help from a cast of characters that includes Greg Walker (of AOR band Duke Jupiter) on guitar, Warren Cooper on sax, and Pete Genovese on percussion. An all-instrumental affair – except for some chanting – the album basically consists of two long suites, each of which is broken down into several smaller pieces that move through a dizzying array of sounds and styles. The first “movement,” if you will, goes from meditative drones and spare, hypnotic guitar patterns to a driving, heavy psych-prog jam before ending on a blissed-out, spacy mood amid ambient tones and guitar harmonics. The second, considerably longer, is an even wilder ride that encompasses Eastern-sounding violin and acoustic guitar duets, Americana-sounding slide guitar, sax-led jazz-rock à la early King Crimson, gentle percussive moments with vibes and kalimba, some John Fahey-esque guitar excursions, and more. What the whole thing has to do with Greek mythology is tough to say, considering that the film part of the project seems to have never materialized, but this monument to one man’s musical vision is a fascinating document regardless……by James Allen…………..
There’s a buzz about this 1974 album among collectors of vintage psychedelia and prog-rock; quite a rarity, the original LPs — only 200 pressed — were supposedly going for as much as $1000 in online auctions (the highest I saw was $800).
Pan Symphony in E Minor is actually a 14-movement suite (not a symphony), a wonderful bit of low-key eccentricity from a very multi-talented guy. WILLIAM NOWIK is heard on guitars (acoustic, electric, and electric 12-string, Hawaiian), electric bass, acoustic and electric violin, flutes, piano, percussion, kalimba, pump organ, and even a ceramic blowfish. A few other folks helped out on this mostly instrumental album, including a pretty good saxophonist, WARREN COOPER.
While it’s easy to hear why prog/psych fans are into it, frequently cited comparisons to Pink Floyd and King Crimson are a bit misleading, as it style-hops all over the place and sounds more like spacey West Coast psychedelia than dense British prog or psych. Free improvisation, a snippet of Gregorian chant, howling wolves, and the above-listed panoply of instruments make this a constantly surprising sonic grab bag of sounds and styles.
The booklet notes read like the stoned ramblings of somebody who doesn’t actually know much about music, or about how to write, but still contain enough interesting information gleaned from conversation with Nowik to be worth reading………………
Somewhat nervously, I expect my entire life to be on YouTube any day now. Well, virtually everything else is available. For music lovers, this is problematic. We have limited time and money, yet press releases and reviews claim that artists, cults, gems, and legends of musical history are being unearthed at a rate roughly equivalent to the discovery of an enormous tomb of pristine terracotta warriors.
Yet the release of William Nowik’s Pan Symphony in E Major on CD is most welcome, not least as it lets us hear why the original vinyl was reportedly fetching $1000 at online auctions. Some of that price was because very few copies of original vinyl existed, but I have to say that Pan is a worthy bit of odd treasure. The music consists of a short opening segment which acts as a summons, and two pieces each long enough to fill a side of a vinyl LP. The “symphony” is actually divided into 14 titles with fairly obvious separations or changes, so if you think it important to deduce which piece is “Tales of Joujouka” or “Rolling to Venus Interlude”, then you can do so.
Nowik explores electric and acoustic contrast, rhythm and percussion, with a variety of guitars, bass, violins, flute, piano, organ, clocks, bells, thumb-piano, and drums. He used to play very long gigs and parties, and consequently gravitated toward longer songs considered unsuitable for radio airplay. Pan Symphony in E Minor is a mostly solo musical trip across assorted terrain. About five minutes in and the abrasive violin/guitar dynamic (from 1974, remember) will sound very familiar to fans of Dirty Three. Elsewhere, there are West Coast math-psych-blues-rock passages, brief but lovely guitar slashes reminiscent of Laurie Wisefield’s rare avant-garde moments, a smidgeon of Gregorian chant, cosmic shuffles, circular folk sections, fluid Canterbury style progressions, choppy Havens-meets-flamenco guitar, electric doubling, a crashing wave, rain, rumbles, chimes and a tinkling semi-crescendo.
In need of a nap, I listened to this remastered disc while lying on the floor and enjoyed every second. It shifts around but without sacrificing clarity to flow. Yet when played in my car, other passengers demanded it be stopped. Apparently, William Nowik continues to play, record, and sing, and may have more releases in the works. And when YouTube reveals my life and personal cultural map, it will connect Nowik’s Pan Symphony in E Minor to Algarnas Tradgard’s The Future Is a Hovering Ship, Anchored in the Past, The Faust Tapes, the forest gods in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, Jakob Olausson’s brilliant psych-folk LP Moonlight Farm, the Cottingley fairies photographs, and magic mushrooms. Before you ignore this album, ask yourself, where else can you hear someone play a ceramic blowfish?……….BY D.M. EDWARDS……………
One of the most interesting finds of recent years is this mushroom-influenced psych/prog instro suite, which goes from mysterious nocturnal moods into acid fuzz guitar leads and back. Impressive and organic, with a wide appeal. The album had no distribution and was reportedly pressed in a few hundred copies, but it’s still surprising that it remained buried for so long……………………..
Pete Genovese Percussion, Vocals, Choir, Chorus, Drums, Bells, Humming, Bamboo Flute, Vibraphone
Brad Wheat Bass
Randy Wheat Drums
Gary Quinn Piano (Electric)
Warren Cooper Saxophone
Greg Walker Guitar (Electric)
A1 Conjuration To Pan
A2 Flight From Morocco
A4 Tales Of Joujouka
A5 Conjuration To Pan/Dirigatur
B1 Rolling To Venus Interlude
B2 Time To Cry
B3 Heaven Help Us All
B5 Burnt Offering
B6 Pan’s Sleep
B7 Sky Fire
B8 Pan’s Return To The Mountains
B9 Finale — Conjuration To Pan