Selected Live Recordings is the third release De La Catessen Records has divined from the archives of New-York-via-Adelaide minimalist composer Alex Carpenter, and the second in this series for his shape-shifting collective, Music Of Transparent Means. It follows the two side-long fantasias of 2021’s self-titled album; this time, we pan out slightly, to grant the listener a varied and yet more complex understanding of the material Carpenter was writing and performing when this music was happening, during the noughties.
On this album, you can hear the results of some intensive explorations of the possibilities of minimalism both at its most delicate, and at its most feverish. The heavenly stasis of “Disappearance #1”, for massed wine glasses and bowed guitars, feels like being jettisoned in a water tower filled with ether; the wooziness of “Burial Music” captures something of the spirit of Fripp & Eno’s (No Pussyfooting), but as though the tape is slowly disintegrating; the music is blurred at the edges, warped and sidereal.
Perhaps the centrepiece of Selected Live Recordings, though, is the simple, yet ravishing, “Rose Street Womb”. With its performers given a simple set of instructions – to continually repeat and elongate a series of phrases, while listening and responding to the overall sound of the ensemble – its pastoral psychedelia recalls the gentle slippages of Arthur Russell’s landmark composition, Tower Of Meaning. Elsewhere, “Mountain Piece #2” is a thunderstorm for massed drums, while “Second Presencing” uses delays as a structuring device to paint an “audio canvas” from a clutch of damaged tones.
Throughout, you can hear Carpenter’s knowledge and deep study of the history of minimalist composition – he has written extensively on the work of La Monte Young, and there is certainly some aesthetic and ideological crossover with the likes of Phill Niblock, Terry Riley, and Arnold Dreyblatt. But it is also very much his own thing, the result of an intensive period of study and exploration of the possibilities, not just of minimalist composition, but also of Just Intonation. With the material long whispered about in reverent tones, and circulating on CD-R only amongst a small group of like-minded souls, De La Catessen’s ongoing series of releases of Carpenter’s music is a major development, bringing to light one of minimalism’s hidden histories.
Limited edition of 150 numbered copies with insert.