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Music Reviews

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Text of Light

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

February 27, 2007
Text of Light presents a somewhat unlikely assemblage of musicians. The presence of Sonic Youth man Lee Ranaldo is perhaps most striking, but when combined with off-the-wall axework of Alan Licht, the sonic experiments of DJ Olive, and the meanderings of other acclaimed musicians such as Ulrich Krieger and Tim Barnes, it doesn't take a genius to realize how far-reaching the possibilities are. Indeed, as individuals Text of Light exhibit a collective portfolio most bands would just about kill for, but in practice is a band pretty much at odds with most of the crowd.

The group's prevailing objective is to provide improvised soundtracks to the works of avant-garde film director Stan Brakhage, and Rotterdam.1 was recorded at the Rotterdam International Film festival in January 2005. Although Text of Light's setup differs very little from the conventional default rock band, their modus operandi is clearly quite disparate from the norm. Given the nature of the Text of Light and their conceptual purpose, my first impression was that a visual element would have injected this recording with greater meaning. After all, the musicians were feeding off the cinematography while they were performing the piece, so it's only natural for the listener to attempt to visualize what was going on when Ranaldo and company were creating it. The fact that this release holds so much more potential tends to niggle away during its course.

But as is the case with any release, Rotterdam.1 should be judged on its own merit. Perhaps Room40 felt that footage would have detracted from the music, which was always the most important element to Text of Light. The music is menacing, percussive, and raw. At just 20 minutes, Rotterdam.1 is fairly short, but gets its point across without beating about the bush. It begins with some percussive fumblings and a swelling yet subtle electronic hum, which is eventually joined by Krieger's saxophone and a greater guitar presence, as the piece gathers momentum. As it builds, it becomes quite discordant and jarring, despite the absence of any regularity or rhythm, and it eventually reaches a state of chaos before returning to relative calm once again.

Room40 rarely fail to knock out releases with eccentricities that run deeper than most, and with Rotterdam.1, they haven't betrayed this trend. Text of Light create a truly otherworldly racket, but once listened to prompts the mind to wonder whether Rotterdam.1 does the group justice. Although slightly underwhelming, it sets the scene well enough, and as a 20-minute, one-track CD, serves as a decent introduction to a conceptually intriguing band.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright



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