orchestramaxfieldparrish: Instant Light
Faith Strange Recordings

orchestramaxfieldparrish: A Midsummer's Night
Faith Strange Recordings

Of all the group and solo projects with which Mike Fazio has been involved (A Guide For Reason and Gods of Electricity, to name but two), it's his orchestramaxfieldparrish that is my favourite. In fact, so dazzled was I by 2008's The Silent Breath of Happiness, I contacted him about the possibility of creating something for textura's first label release, Kubla Khan; not only did he contribute the magnificent “Waning Moon Over Sunless Sea” to it, he mastered the album, too. Subsequent to that, Fazio released the mesmerizing Crossing of Shadows in 2007, as well as To The Last Man / Index Of Dreaming, though that set appeared in 2009 under the orchestramaxfieldparrish presents ÆRA alias. Issued on his own Faith Strange imprint, as much of his output is, Fazio has just made two new orchestramaxfieldparrish releases available, both of them well worthy of one's attention and equally distinguished examples of his highly developed artistry.

Though different instruments are used on the four tracks of On A Midsummer's Night, an impression of unity is achieved when processing treatments are applied liberally to all four. Two pieces were created using prepared archtop guitar, another pizzicato lute guitar and mellophone, and the fourth piano. The opening “Head to Heart” illustrates Fazio's mastery at sculpting sound and handling pacing and dynamics. For nine minutes, shimmering swaths of archtop guitar advance and recede, the thrum and rumble of the instrument suggestive of waves rippling ashore. The sound tapestry expands on “In These Long Years” when rapid, spidery strums of the pizzicato lute guitar are countered by the muted, horn-like murmur of the mellophone, whereas the treatments applied to piano on the twenty-three-minute “It Just Is” radically transform the instrument into an uninterrupted, pulsating stream wherein piano clusters occasionally surface. In all four settings, sounds advance with a precision that feels almost scientifically calibrated, the elements' movements managed by Fazio with the kind of sensitivity that comes from a lifetime of musical practice.

Though recording info beyond that already mentioned doesn't appear on On A Midsummer's Night, one guesses it's the more recently recorded of the two sets when details included with Instant Light clarify that its two parts were recorded in 2013 and 2009, respectively; a note on the inner sleeve reveals that Instant Light comprises “private, archival works originally not included for release,” and a detailed account of the background leading up to the release appears, too. The range of instruments on Instant Light is also greater than On A Midsummer's Night, with Fazio augmenting his customary electric guitar (prepared, processed, glissando, treated) with singing bowls, metals, electronics, modular synthesis, and field recordings (collected between 1988 and 2013).

The presence of singing bowls and field-recorded rain on “...They Would Fly Upwards” immediately individuates Instant Light from On A Midsummer's Night. Not only is the sound palette different, but there's also a tonal shift whereby the former's direct connection to the physical world makes the latter seem more ethereal by comparison; further to that, the resonant ping of the bowls lends the peaceful setting an almost Gamelan character, something absent on the other recording. Far stormier is “And Be Carried Off and Vanish,” which also threads generous helpings of Fazio's guitar playing and bold electronic treatments into a swirling mix that grows ever more celestial as it advances towards its nineteen-minute end. The recording's so-called second part “When Your Dreams of a Perfect Tomorrow Come True” perpetuates the texturally rich soundscaping style of the first with shimmering, metal-tinged surges that convulse, reverberate, and billow with controlled regularity.

If there's anything regrettable about this exceptional pair, it's that only 100 physical copies of each have been produced (though they are available digitally, too). In a perfect world, there would be a place for explorative music of such genuine quality in thousands of receptive listeners' homes, but such a world, alas, doesn't seem to be the one we inhabit.

November 2016