Charlemagne Palestine: all sounds and instruments, voice
There’s something, let’s say so, heavenly homespun in this new record by Charlemagne Palestine, which starts with a rubbed glass and an unsophisticated vocalization in trademark falsetto. A few instants in, we can hear him switching on some kind of machine before reprising the chant. From that device, an indefinite drone originates; it is formed by not precisely describable components in a general impression of blurred dampness. An orchestra stuck on a single chord as heard from the sink hole, if you see what I mean.
Simple as that? Not at all. The massive knowledge – interior and exterior – of an artist of Palestine’s stature translates in this circumstance into the advancement through the various stages of an organically urban/rural mantra which delivers, for lack of a better definition, a tangible teaching. Elicited by the word “sing” repeated a number of times, the crescendo reveals derivations that might bring the listener to think to an organ as the principal source. Perhaps. But it soon becomes clear that the composer is augmenting the intensity of the trance via superimposed tapes containing instrumental shades, several layers of his own singing, and echoes from the outside world. The latter comprise (presumably) airplanes, heavy rain, screaming children, chirping birds, vociferous sheep, marching drummers and choirs from what sounds like a local liturgical rite, even an Italian leftist speaker inviting to defend the workers’ rights at an open-air gathering. And much more, in a majestic maelstrom of sonic emanations.
All of these deeply human manifestations merge splendidly in a sort of miraculous collective radiance. It really feels as everything’s in tune; there’s no way of escaping the “impact within” caused by the music. The progressively growing force of the drone, the appearance of ghosts of memories related to what we have experienced directly, the deus ex machina’s shamanistic dedication, the multiplying flows: a hard-hitting combination, as we’re ultimately possessed by this strange ensemble shaped by entities that would have never dreamed of participating to such a purifying ceremonial.
The end comes suddenly, as Palestine switches off, rubs the glass again and plays with a cheap sampling toy, waving us bye-bye after having intoned the phrase “I love to sing”. A perfect ironic finale for one of the very best releases in the American maverick’s recent output.