Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mnemonists - Gyromancy , LP ,1983, USA

Colorado-based Mnemonists, later renamed Biota, were among the earliest avantgarde groups that engaged in chaotic collages and harked back to abstract, dadaistic art. They assembled wild assortments of sonic events on albums such as the monumental Mnemonist Orchestra (1979), Biota (1982) and Rackabones (1985) that ran the gamut from classical music to sheer noise. Gyromancy (Dys, 1983), a 39-minute piece recorded by a line-up of six musicians, and entirely played on acoustic instruments (piano, cello, guitar, vass, viola, sitar, harpsichord, bagpipes, clarinet, trombone, percussion and many others), although electronically tortured to make them unrecognizable, was their most radical and analytic work yet, but also the most accessible up to that point. The symphony begins in a subdued mode, unleashing several incoherent drones and unrecognizable noises. As the volume intensifies, the drones expand. After 14 minutes the "music" comes to a pause. Electronic processing dissolves the identities of the instruments and leaves in their place only a dark nebula of sound. Slowly, during side B, individual elements become discernible again, although they are now only warped mirror images of the instruments that produced them. This faceless, anarchic and percussive flow of events is progressively accelerated until it becomes a frantic orgy that makes everything coalesce into an organic and terrifying buzzing noise. The music collapses again after 13' of side B, and never quite resurrects, content of slowly burning off the few parts that are still alive.
(from :

Mnemonists: the very name inspires dread in the tongue. It acted as cover for six Colorado-based musicians whose music resulted from the real-time manipulation of live performance on a wide variety of instruments such as piano, cello, guitar, bagpipes, etc. Gyromancy (the term refers to divination performed by drawing a ring or circle, and walking in or around it) was recorded in the summer of 1983 though the music is singular enough to emanate from anytime in the last forty years.
"Gyromancy 1" begins with a sudden jet of sound like fire from a flamethrower. Even as it begins to repeat, the sound metamorphoses, all the while eluding identification. It's akin to seeing something mysterious through frosted glass that might otherwise be easily identified. As the intensity of the performance increases, a looming undertow like the shadow of a mournful giant becomes audible. There's something magnificent and blasted about this percussive sound, like a fist knocking repeatedly on a skull that recalls,­ however faulty the memory, Harrison Birtwistle's Yan Tan Tethera. After a brief pause, a wavering drone starts up that engulfs everything around it. There's an unpleasant slithering, sliding quality to this noise that suggests a combination of oily snake and drunken bagpipe. Another pause and the nightmarish intensity is ratcheted up a few notches, only to gradually and unevenly unwind again. Imagine watching a slinky navigate stairs in slow motion while under the influence of psychedelic stimulants.
"Gyromancy 2" continues in similar vein: percussive sounds swathed in reverb, alien gamelan adrift in lysergic seas. This intense, nightmarish music demands that the listener surrender to its unfamiliar logic, sink into its inky morass. Gradually the sound fades into the distance, looming all the while like an increasingly befogged Fall Of The House Of Usher. So ends the last of the two longer pieces, each a shade under 20 minutes in length.
This music suggests the less friendly parts of White Noise's An Electric Storm, the industrial soundscaping of David Lynch's Eraserhead or a newly discovered early Stockhausen tape piece. It's like sound from somewhere else, intent and unearthly. Access with care.
Reviewer: Colin Buttimer


Anonymous said...

Your blog is the best I've seen (and I've seen a lot!)
How about the doubleLP from Human Hands or the awsome "Insomnia" compilation from We Never Sleep label/collective?

PS Do YOU ever sleep?

Milton said...

love this blog.

this album is currently in print on CD with bonus tracks and full packaging at