Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Prima Materia -Tail of the Tiger,LP,1977,Italy

In 1977 an obscure Italian private label issued a record that sounded like it came from outer space. A long and dense trance-inducing drone of sustained notes, rich with overtones and harmonic embellishments, coming from a space so vast and unexplored that seemed almost of non-human, even electronic nature. Paradoxically, each and any molecule of that sound was produced using only the most original and archaic instrument, the human voice. The name of the group was Prima Materia (First Matter), a project that took shape in 1973 in San Diego, and the record – “The Tail of the Tiger” – was issued by the Ananda label, owned by Roberto Laneri, Alvin Curran and Giacinto Scelsi. The record soon disappeared and over the became almost a legend among collectors and experimental music lovers.
The musicians of the group Prima Materia individually researched and developed unusual vocal techniques (originally used in Tantric rituals in North India, Mongolia and Tibet), based upon the use of overtones coupled with a special state of inner concentration, which was the essential condition for both the emission and control of long-sustained and complex vocal sounds. Their capacity to sustain a note for what seems an eternity, and then continue to provide endless variations generates a continuous and sustained drone of sound, in which the overtones are clearly perceived.
The Wire (by Alan Cummings)
The way of the holy longform vocal drone is most strongly associateci with the mystical wing of the American post-war avant garde, particularly La Monte Young and Terry Riley. But there were adherents in old Europe too. Resplendent in their matching white robes and long hair, Italian a cappella vocal group Prima Materia were the most accomplished. Active through the latter half of the 1970s, they released a single album on a label set up by MEV's Alvin Curran and Giacinto Scelsi, which has now been lovingly reissued by Die Schachtel.Prima Materia leader Roberto Laneri's concerns were very much ofthe period: he wrote a thesis on "sound as the vehicle of altered states of consciousness", exploring his interest in Asian tantric techniques, Ur-klang trance states and the collective unconscious. The concepts may no longer resonate in the same way, but the group's music remains an intensely focused and ascetic experience, slicingthrough the brain with narrow-beam psychedelic power. Sustained vocal drones, originating deep in the throat and diaphragm, are layered one over the other in impossibly long, treacle slow pulses. At times, Prima Materia mightdraw upon recognisable North Indian and Tibetan vocal techniques, but a concentrated monastic minimalism ratherthan florid ornamentation characterises their approach.Resonance becomes key to the interest of the music, as the sedimented voices conspire to produce gorgeous overtone clusters that float lazily across the still surface of the drone like threads of lightning over a midnight prairie.

I can never get enough of this stuff. Like T Conrad's violin pieces, this album achieves a transcendent sound through apparent physicality; on this album it's all voices, layered on top of one another, seemingly from different people, but maybe not. The voices most resemble the sound of a hurdy gurdy; they drone and end without stark punctuation.

get this gem here


grasprelease said...

Many thanks for this! Better late than not, I suppose; though ya'll's pace is hard to compete with...I love the blog selection, and I love the _ethos_.

greenrabbit said...

greetings by GreenRabbit :) from Portugal.

First of ALL, i LOVE this blog, the best music blog, all around the net.
Prima Materia is a great peace of music Art, very meditative and inspired too, is there more works by this music project???

p.s. visit my art blog :)

Anonymous said...

you mentioned tony conrad's violin pieces, but are there any other groups that you know of that sound as breathtaking as this???

thanks so much for sharing this treat! this has to be the best blog on the web!!


edlorado said...

thanks for this excellent!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info!!

The rapidshare link is broken...
Has anyone a new link ?