Boomkat Product Review:
Alvin Curran’s enlightening 1982 masterpiece for voice, synth and tape is back in circulation with thanks to the wonderful Blume label, who have already provided us with vital avant-garde beauties from Mary Jane Leach, Julius Eastman, Sarah Hennies and others.
As co-founder of the pioneering Musica Elettronica Viva improv ensemble formed in Rome, 1966, Alvin Curran was instrumental in the development of electronic and avant-garde music during its golden formative phase, and his influence has resonated throughout many strands of new, experimental music ever since. Curran’s 3rd solo album ‘Canti Illuminati’  is regarded by many as a shining example of his work, bringing to light his focus on “joining notions of place, time, with personal and collective experience,” and typically striving for a natural form that most beautifully transcends perceptions of what avant-garde music is and can be - especially when compared with the genre’s more atonal and “difficult” offerings.
Earthbound but beatific, ‘Canti Illuminati’ is written in two parts that speak to ideas about individual and collective voices. His piece for ‘Voice, Synthesizer and Tape’ sustains some 27 minutes of overtone singing and extended vocal techniques, layered with ship horns, railroad rhythms and imperceptibly woven Serge Synth electronics that become more apparent as it unfolds. You’ll be transfixed from the outset by its complex coordinates, pointedly pulling the senses in various directions, but a certain denouement occurs midway and it gets deeply weird when Curran’s own, tape-delayed voice gathers into a swarming murmuration buoyed by a slowly rising proto-Autechrian bass tone that carries it to visionary new heights.
Where that first piece is about disparate sources - natural and mechanical - arriving at a singular complexity, his work ‘For Choir, Synthesizer, Piano And Tape’ follows with a chorus of 11 voices alternating between solo flights of fancy recalling Ghédalia Tazartès in full voice, to more measured, massed harmonies that speak to a more ancient sorts of psychodrama, like mythical Greek chorales rupturing the present and tracing the event-horizon of a cosmic black hole that separates us from from myriad parallel dimensions. We’re only just pulled back from the edge by a pastoral piano and literally indecipherable but beautiful vocal emoting and intoning in pure glossolalia as entrancingly otherworldly yet innately human as Finnish yoiking or Mongolian overtone singing.
This is one record you can take on trust from accreted generations of ears - it’s a genuine, timeless masterpiece.