Boomkat Product Review:
Keith Fullerton Whitman's brilliant 2004 landmark, recorded between 1994 and 2002, and compiling work Whitman made without using any computer processes, ranging from elegiac drone symphonies to Popol Vuh-esque cosmic rock.
After Whitman released the computer-powered 'Playthroughs' on Kranky in 2002 to significant, unforeseen acclaim, he started to rummage through his archival material, wondering what to do with it. He didn't want to seem like he was turning away from computer music in favor of more "organic" material, which was a familiar move for many artists at the time. But he knew the material was good enough to release - he'd planned to work on a small-run private press release, but Kranky stepped in to give it a wider audience. It's a relief they did, because this record fills in some blanks for any of us who weren't party to Whitman's regular live shows in and around the Boston metro area. He recorded the four tracks presented here at various houses he lived in around the city, and used a variety of instruments - notably none of the modules and effects boxes that would become his signature a few years later. Whitman had been experimenting with guitars, modern composition and muggy psychedelia for years at this point, while moonlighting as breakcore producer Hrvatski, no less. Genre purism was never his strongest inclination.
His dedication to La Monte Young, 'Twinguitar Viola Drone', starts us off, using dissonant feedback tones, pious vocals and plucked electric guitar notes to create a fudgy haze of weightless instrumentation. It's a sound that falls into the zone between Flying Saucer Attack and Sonic Youth on one end, and the grungy, neo-kosmische psychedelia of Emeralds and the US CDR set - who would emerge a few years later - on the other. Whitman bridges the gap with this piece, sounding revenant and prophetic at once. 'Rhodes Viola Multiple' is just as foggy, but focuses on clusters of electric piano notes that snowball into a layered drone, accompanied by electrified viola vamps that provide a welcome palette cleanser. 'Obelisk', his dedication to Dada vanguard Kurt Schwitters, is completely different, and Whitman celebrates the artist by creating an uncanny installation, playing haphazard drums and found objects alongside wispy tape loops and radio static. But he saves the best until last: 'Schnee' is Whitman's devotional psych-rock masterpiece, a guitar led burner that reminds us of Popol Vuh's under-loved 'Agape - Agape, Love - Love'. Quite brilliant.