Tom Recchion: Proscenium
Elevator Bath

Proscenium, the sixth solo album and first album in six years by California-based Tom Recchion (aka the co-creator of Los Angeles Free Music Society and a collaborator with David Toop, Christian Marclay, and Max Eastley, among others), receives a beautiful gatefold jacket presentation from Elevator Bath in this combination twelve-inch and seven-inch vinyl set (500 copies available). As striking as the visual presentation is the recording's sixty-four minutes, which often unfurl in a slow and dream-like manner that mirrors the curling plumes of smoke on the album cover.

The origin for the recording's six pieces helps explain the oft-unsettling mood of the material, as Proscenium came into being as pieces Recchion created for a theatrical production called Invisible Glass that filmmaker/puppeteer Janie Geiser adapted from Edgar Allen Poe's short story “William Wilson.” Though a clear sense of control and deliberation characterizes Proscenium, its brooding set-pieces hardly lack for mystery. It's also often hard to identify the source instruments in a given Recchion piece, given how dramatically he re-shapes the sound materials. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course, as the elusive nature of the instrumentation used simply adds to the music's mystery. It's possible that field recordings form part of the mix, but there, too, it's hard to tell when Recchion alchemizes the source elements so dramatically.

In the opening minutes of “The Mesmerized Chair,” tremolo figures and high-pitched tonal masses shudder within an hermetic, reverb-drenched space until they're supplanted by long, overlapping tones generated by perhaps piano or guitar. The 45-RPM seven-inch features two pieces, “The Haunted Laboratory,” a woozy convulsion of ambient rumble, neon chords, and fluttering figures, and “Lean Your Eye Into the Picture,” an arresting, molasses-thick crackle of flickering stutters and distorted voice effects that inexplicably comes to resemble some surreal space-jazz mutation. Put simply, it's like nothing else you've heard this year or probably any year, for that matter.

It's interesting that Recchion conceived of three of the album's pieces as ones presumably designed to play as the audience enters and exits the auditorium. It's a deliberate move in keeping with his concept for the play, as he wanted the theatergoers to become immersed in the project's atmospheric soundworld during the time before and after the time of the play proper. As such, “Entrance Music No. 2” conjures a blurry ambient-styled realm dotted with gentle rumbles and faint tones; though still restrained, “Entrance Music No. 1” by comparison whistles more brightly, making it seem like the more wide-awake of the pair—until, at least, its whistling tones begin to fade as they slowly disappear down some long corridor. “Exit Music No. 1” escorts the attendee out with sixteen minutes of softly glimmering gloomscaping perfectly crafted to induce a sleepless night or two. Proscenium cumulatively impresses as a distinguished piece of work from Recchion that's very much in keeping with the Elevator Bath aesthetic and upholds the high quality standard of its previous releases.

October 2012