Boomkat Product Review:
Some of Charlemagne Palestine's most aerated work, "Illuminations" pairs him with American-Italian artist and dancer Simone Forti, who improvises wordless vocals and whistling drones over Palestine's freeform bells, piano and voice. More effervescent than a lot of Palestine's best-known material, it's artistically ravenous gear that blurs the lines between new age, free improv and classical minimalism.
Palestine met Forti in 1970, when La Monte Young asked the duo to put together a show for legendary Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath. The two artists decided they could work on music together, so visited California Institute of the Arts' electronic music studio and attempted to find common ground between their unique individual approaches. Their first session had Forti singing and using a corrugated tube - the molimo - that's supposed to be a connector for a gas stove; Palestine meanwhile was playing small bells and crystal glasses, and singing. Across the album we get to hear the two well-practiced improvisors develop a musical relationship as they trade gestures back and forth. By this time Forti was an established postmodern dance innovator, and had worked extensively with Fluxus, and her interaction with Palestine sounds rooted in movement and space. Her vocal style is loose and spontaneous, parroted by the molimo's ghostly wind-powered drones. It's not always completely obvious which sounds are which, throaty tones wobble ritualistically, weaving around Palestine's sparse chimes and effervescent glassy sparkles.
On their second session, the two artists connect vocally, building on the second half of 'Illumination' and rooting their wails in animal communication. They scream and echo each other, using the room's natural reverb to accent each sound with reverberating mystery. The album's final recording is possibly the most indicative of Palestine's later material; it was during his time at Cal Arts that he first encountered a Bosendorfer piano - the instrument he would famously employ on his influential "Strumming Music" set - and here he uses it to accompany Forti's voice. Palestine plays slowly and softly, using shifting rhythms to create a pillowy bed of sound for Forti's microtonal laments - the result is disarmingly meditative, both dissonant and strangely lulling. It's trance music, in a manner of speaking, and it's transformative stuff - still singular even five decades later.