Greg Segal - "The Hero As Pantry" (Phantom Airship Records 2004, PAle 13)
Greg Segal - "Planet Of Garbage" (Phantom Airship Records 2004, PAle 14)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: June 2004
For those of you who haven't been following, Greg Segal's desire to record a new solo CD in 2003 resulted in enough material for 12 new CD's, which he is releasing monthly throughout 2004 as part of his PAle series. In AI #27 I reviewed the January-March releases, and here I cover April and May.
In a note with the CD, Greg says that The Hero As Pantry consists of the first major batch of recordings recycled from the Duets Vol. 2 CD with Bret Hart (see AI #26). The bulk of the CD is taken up by the 5 parts of the title track. "Part One" opens the CD and takes off immediately into a sound-art space journey. With the headphones on I could feel swirling waves in each ear while a larger ambient cloud hovered overhead. And within this surrounding aura of cosmic sound is a stream of percussives, heavenly recorder and spoken word. I receive a great deal of ambient recordings, much of it very good, but little of it that really sets itself apart from the rest. But to hear space ambient music combined with more experimental elements makes things considerably more interesting. "Part Two" further develops the space motif, but gets more high volume and intense. Man, these pulsations are mesmerizing, and blended in with multiple layers of Greg's spoken word, some of it wildly efx'd, makes for a harrowing and surrealistic ride. We're deep in space... and it's a strange but fascinating place. "Part Three" is equally spacey but emphasizes the avant-garde elements more. The Frippoid licks (which may be a synth) are a nice touch and the steady cymbal percussives inject a dose of tension into the mix. "Part Four" and "Part Five" give center stage to the voice work, with lots of raw tape manipulation, backed by minimalist ambience and drones, bells and other percussion.
Wrapping up the set are 3 primarily spoken word pieces. "Betsy Reads A Grimoire" and "Betsy Learns First Aid" feature a humorous efx'd voice and some pretty hysterical monolog. I won't go into why Betsy reading the grimoire had me in stitches but suffice it to say I replayed this 34 second track over several times. Sorry but you have to hear it to get the effect. That pretty much goes for "Kelli's Dream' too, in which Kelli Carlson retells her dream about bloodworms and monkeys while the music and sounds of her dream play in the background. Interesting stuff but the avant-space adventures are the real highlights of the set.
Greg made the comment in the note accompanying Planet Of Garbage that he's never done anything quite like it, so it was with particular interest that I settled into this disc. The CD consists of five tracks - Parts 1-5 - ranging in length from 3 to 24 minutes. The cover image depicts the trash strewn landscape of the title. And as the lengthy "Part One" commences it's clear that along with the title and cover we have a theme. A blend of orchestral elements, frenzied sound-art clatter, ambience and the dominant sweeping wind paint an aural image that easily matches a planet of garbage... devastation and desolation... possibly lifeless. Percussion plays a prominent role - partly tribal and what sounds like a tympani providing bottom end symphonic intensity. It hard to describe the tension as building throughout this piece, as it begins with an already high level of intensity. But it was hard not to feel a bit anxious as I imagined myself fighting against this almost impossible wind with nothing but trash underfoot.... BUMMER!! And after 24 hair raising minutes battling the elements, "Part Two" doesn't bring much relief. Rather, instead of the wind I now find myself in the middle of a factory or somewhere amidst high powered machinery.
Sounds like I'm creating my own little scene description based on Greg's soundtrack huh? But this is seriously image inducing stuff. The kind of sound creation that you don't actively think of while watching that ultra cool sci-fi flick but would render the film woefully lacking if it wasn't there. "Part Four" struck me as being more musical, due to the percussion style, which works well against the harsh soundscapes incessantly scorching the planet surface in the background. Very creative blending of contrasts.
In summary, hearing so many new releases in a short period really drives home the diversity of this artists' interests and creativity. This is 360 degrees from Greg's song and rock oriented recordings. But hey... if you're reading this publication in the first place than I know you're intrigued by the thought of musicians traveling in radically different directions. Speaking of which, the new Jugalbandi CD (Greg and Hyam Sosnow) is beckoning. Read that review this issue and we'll surely be off in yet another realm.
For more information you can visit the Greg Segal web site at: http://www.gregsegal.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Phantom Airship Records; PO Box 82525; Portland, OR 97282-0525.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz