Tony Conrad - Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain
Superior Viaduct has once again brought us something essential from the one and only, Tony Conrad. Last year, SV so graciously made available the long out of print and monumental collaboration between Conrad and experimental rock pioneers Faust. By and large, Outside The Dream Syndicate tends to be the one album where Conrad's name is dropped. For a man that spent most of his life dedicated to experimental art in every sense of the term, this is an injustice to say the least. Although this may have been how Conrad would have wanted it, Superior Viaduct would not let this be the case and thankfully so.
That brings us to Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain, what Superior Viaduct is referring to as the “quintessential work of Tony Conrad”, and they just may be right. But how is a previously unreleased piece of music grounds for such a proclamation? The fact that it has been under wraps and unappreciated since it's recording in 1972 embodies the minimalist ethos of Conrad himself. In that art is the execution of an idea, and once the idea makes its way into the world, the artist needs to move on and begin again. That being said, we now have an opportunity to both enjoy this extraordinary piece of music and get a glimpse into a truly revolutionary time in the history of American music. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes Ten Years Alive is a black hole. It destroys your sense of time and space. It is an example of extreme minimalism and is a truly quintessential work not only of the man, but of the medium. This is what you have heard about when people describe the transcendent qualities of the minimalist approach. Three elements can claim responsibility for the sonic stranglehold of the piece – Conrad plays violin, Rhys Chatham on the custom built “long string drone” and Laurie Spiegel credited as “bass pulse”. Although there is no deviation among these elements, overtime the effects are equal to that of an arsenal.
It seems as if the objective of this piece is to overwhelm the senses, (at its premiere it was played as a soundtrack to a film of the same name and nature), and it does so by providing constant and inescapable repetition. However over time, what at first was a constant now feels like it is anything but. Each subtle change in the sonic landscape feels like massive shifts in the foundation. And therein lies the goal of the minimalist – maximum output through minimal input. How is it that music that contains so little can have such a massive effect? Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain just may be the ultimate example. (Adam)
Check out an excerpt here.