David Lackner: Synthetic Love Dream

Issued on his own Brooklyn-based Galtta Media imprint, David Lackner's Synthetic Love Dream comes armed with clarifying notes that might strike some as intimidating: “Two long-duration, just intonation compositions for sinewaves, saxophone, drums and tuned bass: each piece consists of a 6 pitch set with a 52 HZ root; all pitches are based off of simple ratios found naturally in the overtone series.” Confronted with such details, the listener unversed in just intonation might be surprised when he/she discovers that the forty-seven-minute recording is, in fact, an easy-on-the-ears and eminently pleasurable listen. If anything, the material might be more generally described—technical details notwithstanding—as long-form, blues-based instrumentals featuring Lackner's multi-layered tenor sax as the lead voice. Recorded and mixed by Martin Bisi in March 2014, Lackner's so-called “Meditations on Death and Love” were realized by the composer on saxophone and sinewaves, Adrian Knight on sinetone keyboard, tuned bassist Dominic Cipolla, drummer Derek Vockins, and lyricist-singer Lydia Lunch, who frames the opening piece with a memorable vocal performance.

Though the sinetone keyboard is the first sound heard on “Synthetic Love Dream I,” the arrangement quickly blossoms with the addition of multi-layered sax, tuned bass, and Lynch's cracked voice. Her vocal delivery and cryptic lyrics situate us within David Lynch-styled territory (“I'm writing love letters to a dead man…”) for the opening three minutes, after which the vocal drops out and the focus shifts to Lackner's sax playing for the remainder of this “stagnant blues” until the singer returns for the coda (“I'm making love to his ghost…”). With Vockins' skeletal lurch providing a slow-motion impetus, Lackner wails with abandon, his bluesy phrases overlapping and echoing one another for minutes on end. In those passages where he lays out, the sinetone keyboard moves to the fore and consequently the just intonation character of the material becomes more evident. But even so, no heavy listening's required for the listener, even if the music is unusual. “Synthetic Love Dream II” presents a purely instrumental take on the piece that grants Lackner even more room to stretch out as an alto sax soloist. He certainly makes good on the opportunity, as evidenced by the way he digs into his endlessly spiraling patterns with a Coltrane-like obsessiveness.

As stated, the music is unusual in the way it merges multiple forms—jazz, blues, and minimalism, among them—and the release itself is enigmatic (what should one make, for example, of the cover image, which shows a person's head wrapped in clear plastic?), though such qualities in no way argue against it. If anything, they make Synthetic Love Dream (issued in a run of 100 cassettes and 100 hand-numbered CDs) all the more appealing as a listening proposition.

November 2014