C.W. Vrtacek — Days of Grace
(DOM US CD 06, 1982/1992, CD)
by Mike Ezzo, Published 1997-05-01
Try tackling a review for a project like this and inevitably you end up with blank pages and a headache brought on by acute frustration. Whenever I listen to music of a very personal, experimental nature, I get the notion that the composer intended some sort of significance conferred upon it that to a listener wouldn't be readily apparent without the aid of commentary and explanatory notes. Often one can scarcely infer how much of the music's aggregate is pre-planned, or when chance operations are playing their role. Days of Grace is precisely one of those cases. This CD release contains approximately the entirety of CW Vrtacek's first two solo albums, Victory through Grace and Days and Days, from 1981 and 1982, respectively. At this time the Tascam 4-track tape machine had made its debut, spawning a whole host of home-recording heretics, bent on subverting the hegemony held over the music world by big-time record companies. Is it difficult to picture Vrtacek at home in his bedroom-cum-laboratory, surrounded by instruments and equipment, living out a sort of musical mad-scientist scenario as he concocts his peculiar brand of curios? Shouldn't be.
Vrtacek uses primarily guitar, hand drums and percussion, and tape-manipulation. His compositions are short, terse, and to the point; almost like brief samples or unfinished soundtracks, each piece a sonic interpretation of a landscape, weather conditions, the passing of clouds, etc. I'm repeatedly reminded of nature, of the outdoors. For reference points I would cite Magical Power Mako's Music from Heaven or Bill Nelson's Sounding the Ritual Echo. Notice I didn't say "influences," as I don't imply that at all. Most of the trademark virtues (or perhaps vices, depending on how you see it) of the home-recording artist are present, mixed and processed so that performed material, and source tape material coalesce into a potpourri: overlapping phrases a la Charles Ives; spliced-in found voices such like Holger Czukay pioneered; musique-concrète techniques; and more. At times the voices interrupt my enjoyment of the music's otherwise abstract nature, but readily apparent it is that he can actually play his instruments, and is not merely some clever clown fiddling with knobs and buttons. Guitar is obviously the main weapon of choice and his total command over it serves the soloing and melodic work, while Middle-Eastern percussion trinkets such as dumbek (or what sounds like it) create a ritualistic underpinning. He also seems to love coaxing a pseudo-Arabic sensation out of his primitive synths, and violin. Yes this was about the time digital was sweeping the world, but you won't find DX7's here. Days of Grace sits at that irresolute junction where the primeval meets the Eastern, and the modern.
Related artist(s): C.W. Vrtacek (Charles O'Meara)
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more