ahh didn't see this bump.
man, that invisible pyramid boxset. i could talk for days about it. it's been with me for about a year now. definitely the most alien music comp i have with me. so rewarding.
here's a neat writeup about it:
Providence label Last Visible Dog has been a prime source of mind-bending sound for a while, disseminating what its website calls “the NZ underground, American outsider free-folk, Japanese Psych-rock, and the on-going European ‘freak-out’.” But with The Invisible Pyramid: Elegy Box, the imprint has outdone itself and pretty much everyone else, spreading nearly eight hours of probing music by 31 artists across six bulging discs. Inspired by the nature writing of Loren Eiseley, each EP-length contribution is dedicated to an extinct species. Swimming through the set’s engulfing sounds while reading about each vanished creature, it’s tempting to view The Invisible Pyramid as artistic preservation, an attempt to save some great marginal music from extinction. However, Jeff Knoch’s heady liner notes suggest a subtler connection between fringe music and neglected animals. Lamenting man’s inability to recognize that “non-human animals act, think, and exist entirely independent of any human design”, Knoch sees a solution in “beings who walk the fine tightrope betwixt our own kind and the wholly other”. Specifically, he means dogs. “Gazing into the eyes of a dog, one sees both a reflection of oneself and a glimpse of an intelligence so alien and other,” Knoch explains. “[The dog] affords the disenchanted human…a hitherto unseen eternal openness, where everything is experienced as newness and as it is.” Maybe drone, free-folk, noise and all the outsider sounds on The Invisible Pyramid are the dogs of music, halfway between man-made composition and the “as it is” sound of nature. Such airy philosophizing might be a bit much, but even if the music here isn’t the link between man and nature, it sure sounds like it.
Primal percussion, electronic rumblings, animalistic moans, screeching amplification and wholly unidentifiable sounds mesh in a way both guided and untamed, with each artist more conduit than controller. It’s man versus nature with the ‘versus’ deleted. The group best suited to this task (at least in name) is Italy’s My Cat is An Alien, and its contribution to disc four fittingly is not dedicated to a specific animal, but rather “all the extinct alien species”. The duo sews short guitar clips, rotating electronics, and pinprick noise into an aural forest, with every sound as unpredictable as rainfall, yet the ideas behind them clear as water. Yet The Invisible Pyramid’s nature-drenched tone is set much earlier. Black Forest/Black Sea (from Providence, Rhode Island) open with a paean to the Inepta tortoise, diving from the top of a glitchy cliff down through squawking percussion and back up into meditative string sawing. New Zealand’s Birchville Cat Motel follow with a typically dense drone, adding crunchy distortions and sparse strums that flicker like stars in a pitch-black sky. Later, Philadelphia’s Bardo Pond eulogize a Costa Rican frog with a blast of heavily-stoned psych that steers close to song territory without losing the set’s feral freedom. At the other end of the spectrum, London’s Peter Wright melts wharf ambiences, fire crackles, and echoing footsteps into 3-D drones that seem to turn speakers into sound-reflecting walls. California’s Jewelled Antler Collective, whose members often utilize field recordings and naturalistic instrumentation, should fit snugly inside The Invisible Pyramid, but only two of its artists are included. Loren Chasse’s “the carapace and its soul-life” whispers a thin drone through water, Metal, and outdoor ambience, while Steven R Smith’s hymn to the Hawaiian “Confused Moth” is one of many tracks to weave noise around a lone exploratory guitar, evoking the winding string-work of Roy Montgomery bathed in a woodsy fog.
More heavily represented are the similarly nature-friendly Finnish groups, many of whom contribute suites of shorter tracks. Kulkija’s odes to the Polynesian fruit-dove are distant, spooky rumblings that seem to fade like shadows at dusk. Tomu Tonttu uses processed moans, absurd edits, and Residents-like organ lines to pay homage to the Christmas Island bulldog rat. Standing tallest are the always-inventive Avarus, whose four-track cycle in praise of the dodo is a kitchen sink symphony of drum circle loops, whooping prayers, and gleeful invention. Despite a boggling consistency, The Invisible Pyramid crests highest during its stunning fifth disc. The gravelly textures and eastern-tinged guitar of England’s Ashtray Navigations memorialize the “Mysterious Starling”. The great auk achieves flight during Geoff Mullen’s two ringing, Fahey-worthy acoustic offerings. And Jeff Knoch’s own group, Urdog, provides The Invisible Pyramid’s pinnacle. After a sung hymn to the Falkland Island wolf that recalls Tower Recordings at their most reverent, “The Open” forms a dark cloud of noisy showers, then a bright rainbow of echoing organ recalling Bobby Beausoleil’s score to Kenneth Anger’s earth-myth Lucifer Rising. “Most of us do never fully appreciate the gifts and insights that animals offer…until they are no longer”, concludes Knoch in his notes. The sounds that spill from The Invisible Pyramid may be less endangered than animals, but Last Visible Dog’s effort to enshrine current practitioners is heroic nonetheless.