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Album review

John Cale & Terry Riley 

Church of Anthrax

added: 11 Jul 2014 // release date: 11 Jul 2014 // label: Esoteric
reviewer: Andy Snipper

John Cale & Terry Riley - Church of Anthrax - Printable version
Many people think of this album as a John Cale album first and foremost but Terry Riley’s contribution is actually the greater and there are strong resonances with his classics ‘In C’ and ‘Rainbow In Curved Air’. That Riley walked out on the mixing session claiming that there was too much of Cale’s influence has always been puzzling to me.

From the very start Cale sets up a drone with a heavy and portentous bassline while Riley begins a repetitive sequence on the electric organ. Stabbing guitar chords punctuate and the title track builds to a maelstrom of noise. You are dragged along, following the organ line while Riley’s soprano sax blows discordant counterpoints, your breath coming faster and shorter and all the while the drums beat under the music forcing you along with the pace. It ain’t fun but the effect is, literally, awesome.
That this whole piece was jammed in the studio, the two main players feeding off each other, says something for their history and the impact of their meeting; this is music at its most harsh and raw and draws something dark and primal from each of them.

Track 2, ‘The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versaille’ takes a totally different tone. Enormous echo is employed to give the feeling of height and the lack of the massive bassline allows the music light and air. Riley’s sax again carries the melody while Cale sets up a repetitive riff on the piano. The repetition and constancy of the number actually give the feeling of the title – in many ways it reminds me of Paul Horn’s ‘Inside’ album, recorded in the hall of the Taj Mahal.

The only track here with vocals is a song by John Cale ‘The Soul Of Patrick Lee’ which references his homeland of Wales and is a perfectly fine folk song but has absolutely no place here and never did.

Thankfully ‘normal’ service is resumed for the remaining two tracks on the album both of which follow the form and style of the first two – jams that build and draw you in to the point where your whole consciousness is contained within the music.

Anyone familiar with Cale or Riley will find music here to satisfy – the classical overtones of Riley’s work or Cale’s time with LaMonte Young (before the Velvet Underground) – and it is a true classic album as well as a welcome remaster.


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4 stars

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