Russell Mills / Undark — Pearl + Umbra
(Instinct INS-501-2, 1999, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2000-10-01
I’d give a list of the well-known guest musicians who contribute to this album, but Exposé reviews need to be under 300 words. So I’ll mention a few of the highlights: Brian Eno, Roger Eno, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Peter Gabriel, Michael Brook, and Thurston Moore. No offense intended to the many left out. Russell Mills is primarily known as a visual artist, having designed album covers for many artists. His Undark project, of which this release is the second, puts him in the role of architect or facilitator as much as musician, rather like Brian Eno’s methods on some of his albums. Sonically, this is a mixture of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, with samples, sequences, and live playing all mixed together. Some tracks are pretty much actual songs, like “Rooms of the Sixteen Shimmers” with Sylvian’s trademark croon or “Golden Hair” with harmonium chords and Clodagh Simonds sounding a bit like Sinéad O’Connor; others are very atmospheric, like “A Swoon in Amber,” which consists of an intriguing succession of near-white noises that somehow manages to not be grating. Many of the pieces consist of a processed rhythmic part (often a drum loop) with the kind of “bear bass” that Laswell is known for, topped by sustained washes of sound (for example Brook’s “infinite guitar”) and snippets of taped spoken words and other sounds. Graham Haynes’s cornet provides a nice unexpected touch on two tracks. In all, this is one of the most satisfying and interesting discs of the year, and a worthy addition to Eno’s tradition as well as contemporary electronic music.
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more