Dax Pierson & Robert Horton: Pablo Feldman Sun Riley

Pablo Feldman Sun Riley came about rather serendipitously when Robert Horton met Dax Pierson (Subtle, 13&God) at Amoeba Music, a major record store in Berkeley, California where the two discovered a shared affection for Augustus Pablo and Morton Feldman. Naturally enough, the collaborative outgrowth of that encounter pays homage to those artists as well as Sun Ra and Terry Riley. The album's seven pieces (five in the ten minute or longer range) are explorative meditations that honour the four figures by not merely aping them in some crudely imitative form but by invoking them in spirit.

The remarkable opener “Winterlong” is both mobile and static; it's the kind of spacious music-making where every note is, so the cliché goes, pregnant with meaning. Dominated by the slow interplay between Pierson's shuddering melodica, Horton's church organ-like khaen (a free-reed bamboo mouth-organ from Laos and Northeast Thailand), Alexander Kort's cello plucks and bowings, and occasional vocal growls by Lon Huber, the piece stops time for its full ten minutes and wholly arrests one's attention in the process (Horton describes the piece as representative of the ‘Pablo Feldman' part of the album). Though the range of instrumentation is as provocative as the music itself (bowed guitar, Dr. Sample SP-202, synthesizer, sine wave, tape guitar, and ‘boot,' a four-stringed homemade device), the artists use that sonic potential to shape the material into multi-dimensional form. The material defies easy pigeonholing, but one could classify Pablo Feldman Sun Riley as experimental dronescaping of a particularly rich kind, especially when it ascends the mesmerizing peak of the penultimate “Offguard”; one might also describe it as a quintessential kranky recording that, in this case, happens to be issued on AA/Nosordo.

January 2007