Table Of The Elements

Recorded at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1995, this meeting of Tony Conrad and Jim O’Rourke’s scorching violins (check out the distortion generated by their adjacent tones), Zappi Diermaier’s primitive drum beat and Jean-Hervé Peron’s (literally) finger-shredding bass playing, is a raw testimony of the unrepressed anger of Tony Conrad, punk minimalist par excellence, who had declared that the mix of the original Outside the Dream Syndicate didn’t do justice to the ferocity of his dissonant intervals (“dissonant” for those more familiar with Kronos’ and Arditti’s interpretations of the adjective – for this listener Conrad’s squeals are celestial). True, the original version sounds “softer”, but it remains a perfect document of the period in which it appeared. Then again, it’s almost too easy to be impressed by this extremely violent version of “From the Side of Man and Womankind”, which if listened to at sufficient volume, especially on headphones, soon becomes a veritable brain-hammering, leaving us defenceless and overwhelmed by its sheer intensity. The robotic Faust rhythm section is the perfect backdrop for the devastation brought by Conrad and O’Rourke, whose lines often sound like a wrecked bluesman’s harmonica put through a Pro-Co Rat distortion unit. But while I love the turbulent, vehement authenticity, the bootleg sound quality of the recording leaves much to be desired; the author of such important pages deserves better. That said, maybe that’s too purist a reasoning, and I should just enjoy the natural phenomena for what they are. After all, the music of this particular American maverick was never made for testing hi-fi.

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