On Faith Strange

ORCHESTRAMAXFIELDPARRISH PRESENTS ÆRA – To The Last Man / Index Of Dreaming / Pæan No.1 – The Paradise Syndrome

Besides being an affable character, Mike Fazio is also the man in charge of Orchestramaxfieldparrish, a project active since over a decade ago. This limited edition triple CD, released at the beginning of 2009, comprises two and a half hours of soundscapes that, according to the composer’s words, are in a way a homage to certain fringes of the German branch of electronic music of the 70s (æra is actually pronounced “Ashra” – get the picture?). The correct definition for this stuff is “cinematic”. Mostly derived from overlaid cumuli of seriously processed guitars and other kinds of studio cures (including ecological echoes in “Pæan No.1”) with a pinch of Eastern flavors, the tracks consist of rather dramatic commentaries for states of mind that should hypothetically approach catharsis, with all the relative pros and cons. Most conspicuously, speaking of the latter, the plague known as “synthetic voices”, luckily not over-utilized though present: I can’t stand them anywhere, and never will. It must be noted that this musical district was systematically explored in past decades by people like Steve Roach, plus dozens of imitating individuals (moreover, Roach is not a complete original himself). But Fazio – not a copycat despite several unintentional similarities – is honest. He lets us perceive hard work behind the façade and some of his drones are impressive, especially in Index Of Dreaming. Had the whole been narrowed to a single disc encompassing the best sections, this would be an excellent release. As it is, there’s a little inconsistency here and there, primarily due to a handful of commonplaces that managed to escape the colander of good taste.


Described (not quite convincingly) as a “collection of lamentations” by their engineer, Crossing Of Shadows confirms what good we already know about Orchestramaxfieldparrish: the ability of evoking theatrical suspensions with hardly any compositional device, the absence of fraudulence in what Fazio concocts. To start with the lone small minus, the spoken word-cum-piano in “A Walk Among The Raindrops” should hypothetically elicit a meditative mood of sorts but for my own taste it sounds a bit “mandatory” in respect to the album’s majority. Still, as far as the value and spectacular sheen of the large part of these droning/glowing vistas are concerned, things get better here than in the excessively stretched triple CD reviewed above. Let me be perfectly clear: perhaps those who have been bearing with this writer’s ceaseless rants against the cheapness of nowadays’ electronic music might think about a change of stance. This is not true, of course, for there’s no likelihood of actual innovation when the same ingredients utilized by hundreds of wannabes appear just everywhere. However, stressing the point once again, a trained ear distinguishes when an individual publishes something out of personal conviction as opposed to the mere greed of “entering the frame”, so the tendency in the former circumstance is to forgive the weaknesses and encourage the sincerity. This is not a case of “got nothing to do, let’s become a musician”. Mike Fazio is skilled, some of his ideas beg to be appreciated, and that’s what counts at the end of the day. If he clearly acknowledges the influence of Klaus Schulze (“Lost Star”) and the likes, it’s not a deadly sin. But his best work lies in 2008’s The Silent Breath Of Emptiness, which I urge you to check first.

Faith Strange

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