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Bellowing Room / Tinct

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Album Review

This Colorado collective began in the early '80s under the name of the Mnemonists. A music and visual art collective, their first album Hoard is regarded as a classic of experimental music and was reissued by Recommended Records on CD in 1999. Changing their moniker to Biota sometime in the '80s, this signified a change in direction that would see them produce some of the most stunning electro-acoustic music that draws upon folk, rock, and tape music in an incomparable manner. They are often compared to Faust, in that they use the studio to construct their compositions out of acoustic instruments and have no fear of letting the tape machines become instruments in their own right. Recommended also issued this CD, which brings two of their self-released LPs to the digital format. This music really sounds like nothing prior to it, it is a unique marriage of ideas and approaches that on paper appear like a mismatch. Yet when listening to this enthralling and complex music, one can very easily become entranced in its alien sound world. Not entirely abstract, the music has its roots in American tradition and takes in folk and country music in a skewed manner, like Captain Beefheart, Harry Partch, and John Cage all in the same studio. Progressive rock, in a very literal sense of the term, it is no surprise that Chris Cutler was the first to recognize the group and subsequently become a member. At times, they do recall his group Henry Cow in that they are adventurous, bringing jazz, classical, progressive, folk, and 20th century classical into their range of influences. However, the style is unique and unparalleled. Later, groups such as Gastr Del Sol approached similar territory, as has British sampling composer John Wall. This CD collection finds Biota on more abstract ground than their later work, which is similar to the Pentangle, if they existed in Philip K. Dick's universe that is. It was this late-'80s period that earned them many awestruck followers, and often artists would adopt some of their challenging ideas — Pluramon and Ground Zero spring to mind. On this collection, the folk idiom is to the fore, acoustic instruments dominate, and processing is done via tape and postproduction techniques. The production is of a very high standard from the recording through to the elaborate booklet which depicts drawings and paintings the group made in conjunction with the record, kind of graphic scores or visual interpretations of the themes of their complex instrumental music. It may sound obscure to describe music as having similarities to Stockhausen, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Captain Beefheart, and the Residients, but somehow this music references all of these and more within any moment. Entirely unique and fascinating music created outside of trends. It certainly speaks in it's own self-stylized language, and comes recommended to fans of the more adventurous side of rock.

Bellowing Room / Tinct, Biota
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