Saturday, June 23, 2007

Craig Leon- Nommos ,LP,1981,USA

Most people should recognize the name of this artist. However, most people will recognize the name of this artist when it's paired with a production credit, not as...well, the artist. Craig Leon is, of course, one of the seminal NYC punk/New Wave producers who brought us so many excellent things from that scene, ranging from Suicide to Blondie. And he's continued his production work on up to the present day, of course. Still, very few people know about the electronic albums he's made himself. And that's a shame, because they're fine, fine drone-a-delic stuff. Especially his first, "Nommos". Used as a soundtrack for a dance work by Twila Tharp (as was a lot of nifty NYC stuff from this general period), "Nommos" is supposedly based on African rhythms and the like. But really, it's always reminded me more of some sort of missing link between the proto-industrial rhythm and drone of Suicide and the whole minimalist drone/static/repetition method as in Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, etc. You've got the rhythm generator thing going on. You've got the synthdrones. You've got the constant repetition. The whole hypnotic but not necessarily relaxing vibe. Much of the album uses the nifty-but-simple trick of 'comb filtering' to make the drums/rhythm box 'ring' on a certain pitch. And then over this, Leon builds up layers of more drones. And more. And even more. And then sometimes, as in "Donkeys Bearing Cups", also adds a bunch of evil, headwarping processing to this. End result: hypno-brainmelt. On the first side of this, both "Ring..." and "Donkeys..." are fairly fast-paced affairs, constantly rhythmically pulsing, droning, the discoid equivalent of some mutation of LaMonte Young's "The Tortoise, His Dreams and Journeys" pieces. But "Nommo" slows things way down, with this discontinuous, jerky, almost bluesy-type beat, over which everything just slowly builds chordally, like some weird heat-mirage architecture. It's a serious eyes-roll-back-in-head sort of thing...blissy, in a 'kosmische' sort of zone, but at the same time not really having that 'kosmische' sound to it. Side two kicks off with a harsh, bzzzaaating rhythm, also jerky, and incomplete-sounding. But in this case, instead of building up a chord, Leon builds the components of the rhythm pattern. One bit here, another bit off in the reverb zone out there somewhere, and so on as this insectoid buzz-hum starts to key up and ripple away, a bit disquietingly perhaps. Then a actual voice, yes...and then another, joins this, sometimes tunelessly, making odd birdcall-like sounds, ahhs, wails, vocal line fragments, and so on. Whoever's doing this isn't credited, but I can say that it reminds me some of Meredith Monk's 'primal-vocal' type work. Eerie, spacy...quite trippy. Then BAM!!! suddenly we're dropped without warning into the fast, frantic rhythm-box groove of "She Wears a Hemispherical Skull Cap". It's abrupt, almost startling, because you get locked into the former and chucked headlong into this. But as a chordal, hymnlike polysynth starts to arch over this, you just sit back and go 'yeahhhh....' as the dronebliss just washes over you in one long I-chord being played out and with. There's things here that, like I said, remind one straightaway of Suicide. But it's never really as abrasive an experience as Martin Rev's great work with that duo. Instead, it's more blissed-out. You could also draw some comparisons with some of the more 'motorik' Kraut stuff; there's a sonic kinship here with, say, Cluster's "Zuckerzeit". But it's the obvious minimal/drone school linkages that really draw things together here, from the buzzdrone beats to the washing chords and hummmmmmmming synths. Head music? Oh, yes...yes, indeedy. But also, the sort of 'head' music that anyone with an astute ear for an electronic beat can gravitate to. As for where to get this these idea. It's odd that Takoma, which is usually known for folk-type releases, put this out, because it's about as antithetical to a folksy-sounding record as one can get. But it's very much worth hunting down if you're into the robotiker groove-trance brainhum sound it's got.

Reviewed by Julian Cope
An absolute must!
As requested!

***************NEW LINK POSTED SEPTEMBER 2012***************

Get it here 


Pajamas (like Bahamas) said...

thanks for this.


Anonymous said...

Wow!! Thank you VERY much!! Very unique and wonderful album. If any one can find Leon's second alb, would make my summer!! But just having Nommos comes close to bliss anyway.....

Thanks again,


Anonymous said...

This is cool!!

Joe Don Baker Dozen

Children's Prison said...

Hello Friends.

Amazing find here. "An Absolute Must" indeed!

MutantSounds is a bridge. Endless thanks!


brandumb said...

This is fan-fucking-tastic.


another absolute gem is the album arthur brown and craig leon did entitled "the complete tapes of atoya" minimal synth stylings with arthurs over the top echoed vocals on top!!

William said...

just found this after trying to source tracks from Baldelli's original cosmic mixes...mutant sounds comes through!!

Anonymous said...

great :))

thank you


the saucer people said...

Its kinda fitting that the other Craig Leon album,'Nommos' album can be found at the wonderful Lunaratrium blog
Two cosmic music blog powerhouses in perfect resonance. Its interesting in Julian Cope's review that he didn't mention where the name "Nommos" came from given his cosmic antiquity bent. The name comes from the Dogon tribe in North Africa and the "Nommo" are the three eyed fish gods from Sirius who came to earth and taught the Dogon the mysteries of the universe...kinda fitting given the otherness of the music...a great post (as always)