Saturday, May 15, 2010

Glenn Branca - The Ascension (1981)

There's a Phillip Glass quote I found somewhere about Glenn Branca; something to the effect that "(he) has one foot in punk and the other in experimentation". That's a pretty apt descriptor of the whole No Wave scene in general, and here on Branca's debut solo record he explores sound via a four guitar army (one of which was Lee Ranaldo, who would go on to form Sonic Youth with another Branca disciple, Thurston Moore), played with a punk rock attitude.

Branca (along with Fred Frith) was an early pioneer of the use of prepared guitars, as well as exploring textures and "sheets of sound" through droning and repetition, alternate tunings and excessive volume. These "songs" on The Ascension aren't as much songs as the ideas (or "sketches") they represent, performed with all the above devices and effects. Under all that feedback and distortion there's an array of sounds and things going on that appear and re-appear upon subsequent listens. It's more or less an adventure.

Best when listened to loud; really, really loud...

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