My conversance with Bobby Previte’s production began with his solo debut Dull Bang, Gushing Sound, Human Shriek, published by Dossier in 1987. That album – plus several more which followed – certified him as a member of the league of unjustly undersung artists endowed with both instrumental prowess and composer’s skill. Nonetheless, over the years I was so carried away by the huge amounts of records – useful or not – popping up from most everywhere, to the point that for a long time Previte’s output has not been a priority in my cyclical observations.
So it was quite a surprise to discover this peculiar release. A mass, no less, directly deriving from the rearrangement of Guillaume Dufay’s Missa Sancti Jacobi spiced with influences of Olivier Messiaen… and metal, of all things. Fans of Sunn O))) and Earth will be glad to know that Stephen O’Malley and Don McGreevy cause some serious turbulence in here. The choral score is finely handled by Jordan Sramek’s Rose Ensemble; Marco Benevento on different organs, Mike Gamble and Jamie Saft on two additional guitars, and Reed Mathis on electric bass complete the roster. It’s a strong group overall, but the risk of a pompously cheesy overstatement was high.
However, bringing back to life a previously discarded project caused an interesting turn of events. Although a few sections do sound a little clumsy – the mathematical correspondences of early music, pipe organ and overdriven power chords are not easy to find, whatever the context – the work is functional in its own way, and – this writer dares to say – reminds of certain progressive opuses of the 70s that were derided by thousands of punksters at first, then became objects of absolute respect decades later. It takes a considerable dose of bravery in 2016 to mix styles and ages without appearing ridiculous, but Previte’s musical knowledge eschews the perils of pitiful eccentricity. At the end of the day, Mass might not belong in anyone’s hall of fame; still, this experiment should be rewarded with a thumb up, if only because such a dangerous attempt does not ring as an offense to the audience.