Rhys Chatham returns with his first new album in 3 years, the apocryphal and enchanting Pythagorean Dream.
Having studied under Terry Riley and La Monte Young (whom he later went on to work with)---Chatham fused the overtone-drenched minimalism of John Cale and Tony Conrad with the relentless, elemental fury of the Ramones. It was an inspired amalgamation ‰ÛÓ the textural intricacies of the avant-garde colliding with the visceral punch of electric guitar-slinging punk rock ‰ÛÓ and with it Chatham created a new type of urban music. Raucous and ecstatic, this sound energized the downtown New York scene throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, prefigured the No Wave movement and cast a huge influence over the subsequent work of Chatham‰۪s many prot̩g̩s, including Glenn Branca and future members of Sonic Youth.
Following his Guitar Trio Is My Life! and A Crimson Grail records‰ÛÓthe latter, the extensive revisiting of his groundbreaking ‰ÛÏGuitar Trio‰ (1977) which featured the entire guitar section of Sonic Youth, and members of Swans, Tortoise, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Modern Lovers, A Silver Mt. Zion & HÌ_sker DÌ_; the former, his work for large electric guitar orchestra which premiered in Paris in 2005 (for 400 guitars) and was reworked for the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Festival in New York City in 2009 (200 electric guitars and 16 electric basses)‰ÛÓChatham felt a need to get back to basics, returning to that most intimate and direct way of experiencing music: the solo.
Going back to the model of composer as performer that was pioneered in the 1960s by artists such as Tony Conrad and Terry Riley, Chatham began to develop solos that he would play himself, choosing to incorporate the multi-second delay effect pioneered by Terry Riley with two Revox Tape Machines. Feeling that it tied in with his overall minimalist aesthetic (having studied under, and then worked with La Monte Young in the early 1970s) and that the effect (which gives the impression that choirs and choirs of instruments are playing) was fitting as a succession to his 100-guitar idea, Chatham created and layered feedback loops of varying durations using Riley‰۪s method in order to create rich, overlapping layers which in practice transcend the limitations of their start and end points, blooming into free-flowing melodies in their own right.
Part One of Pythagorean Dream is comprised of a brief trumpet intro, followed by a guitar piece which implements a finger picking technique (Chatham has long been a fan of this style; John Fahey was one of his teenage musical heroes), before moving to an eBow section, and concluding with the fast tremolo flatpicking technique used in the context of his 100 guitar pieces.
Part Two is principally about Chatham‰۪s return to the flute, the instrument which sparked his love of contemporary music; which he mastered in his adolescence prior to experiencing the early Ramones show at CBGB‰۪s which caused him to changed course and focus on the electric guitar. While composing this solo work, Chatham figured that the flute‰۪s timbre would make a suitably interesting contrast to the guitar and trumpet, which led him to pick up the instrument again. Pythagorean Dream features Chatham on C, alto & bass flutes. The recording is brought to a close with a final guitar piece.