new york 1985; california 1983; leicester 1987; brussels 1987.
there has been a lot of actual poetry in recent outings. what’s here is genuine 1980s electronica and other sound; and when i say that, i don’t mean anything recognisable as a genre or era of music. the poetry here, backed up perfectly by the lyricless music, lies with statements such as:
4 stages > sub rosa myths foundation: 1984-89
the first is “instructions for survival”
the second is such that one forsakes industry’s clamor for a road where one walks alone
black-orange (can be rusted)
the third is an invitation to a secret stoïcism- rose-fingered dawn’s smile
the fourth is such that it’s the heart that speaks in a spiral movement
the work of the label, sub rosa, is the most remarkable. other music labels exist to release the latest, most popular or cool bands with a marketing push behind them to tap into the consciousness and, in reality, people’s wallets. sub rosa instead genuinely explores alternative fringes of sound. commercialism isn’t a thought in their heads. creation and documentation are.
the first piece of music by jon hassell called map of dusk is rather eerie and ominous in its way; a quiet relentlessness. this was the song recorded in new york – one wonders what other musicians there and then would have thought of creations such as these. it’s clear that certain artists and types of music are always on the edge, outside the time in which they are created (and in some cases, like this, almost outside any identifiable era at all).
the song is followed by the opposite effect, a kind of sweet optimism. on cartago sand dancing by harold budd from california, there’s a cited steel guitar which is used to create sounds one would never expect from such an instrument, especially not in the context of the rest of this collection. employing the same mix of instrumentation, his secret second contribution, strange thunder, is again less sugary and more subterranean.
significant difference is found in the uk inclusion from gavin bryars, though it is no more or less quiet than the americans who preceded it. that seems vaguely irrelevant to state; but what’s in this is simply two guys playing pianos in a song called sketch for sub rosa. it was purposeful in its mythical creation. and you cannot believe that almost eleven minutes pass.
we end with a bell; birdsong; seemingly religious singing. this is actual archival material – recording of the somewhat everyday. brought together with the music above, it is a kind of proof of music as everywhere, and extraordinary sometimes in its simplicity and relationship to things as basic as breathing, hearing, heart pumping.
the release’s name, myths, is the most real title of any album so far. i shall return to sub rosa in a more conceptual way to explore some of the meaning and purpose of music, because i think they are somewhere near the centre of defining several important aspects.
on its own, this little album feels like a gateway to a new continent. it’s a spectacular, slightly mind-bending alternative place to visit.