AFTERNOON SAINTS – The Shirley Jangle


It’s great when I receive a vinyl edition that contains materials for which one doesn’t have to worry about ticks and crackles ruining the content (and, furthermore, emits a wonderful scent of first-rate cardboard when you sniff it). The quartet of Christian Marclay, Lee Ranaldo, David Watson and Günter Müller – baptized the Afternoon Saints for the occasion – utilized three sides of a double LP (the fourth was etched by Ranaldo in abstract mandala-like fashion) to imprison a radical procedure comprising bits of each artist’s personality melting in overlapping lumpy liquids that simmer, buzz, thump, whirr and ultimately communicate – a lot. There are several memorable moments where a mere comparison between opposite atmospheres yields fantastic results; for example, a short track at the end of the opening side sees a studio for classical guitar gradually overwhelmed by an ebbing-and-flowing mire of warped chords and indescribable portrayals of fluctuating anarchy.

Consistent differences exist in the improvisations, which were mixed and edited by Jim O’Rourke. Lengthy stretches of inflammable stasis are all but forgotten when the sources interlock according to improbable variations, generating patchworks where there’s not a single element remaining in place for more than a few seconds. Watson’s bagpipes are heard in oscillating combinations of winded disquiet and droning enlightenment, Müller’s lattices are silently inexorable and brain-challenging, Ranaldo is perhaps the less immediately identifiable presence, yet the electric charisma around the room is palpable when his axe hums, snarls and twangs. However, a crucial factor for this music’s gripping peculiarity is the continuous steering amidst (theoretical) genres deriving from Marclay’s brilliant choice of recorded portions splattered across the general magma. Those snippets of muzak, Latin patterns, trite jazz, military marches and god-knows-what acoustic debris spread a veil of ironic nostalgia on a mass of polluting sludge.

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