Boomkat Product Review:
A definitive, life-affirming product of the 1970s avant-garde, Prima Materia’s transcendent vocal ensemble work, The Tail of the Tiger, is reissued with bonus material recorded in Köln, 1974, on vinyl for the first time - marking the 10th anniversary of its CD reissue, and nearly 40 years since the original, obscure Italian private pressing.
We’ll let Terry Riley bring you up to speed: “As is the case with La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music, David Hyke's Harmonic Choir and Pauline Oliveros's Deep Listening Band, Roberto Laneri has had a life long penchant for the droning mysteriosa of the sound current and with the Prima Materia ensemble he has expressed it in a disciplined, expansive and singular way”.
The Roberto Laneri he refers to is the lynchpin of Prima Materia - trans: First Matter - a vocal ensemble founded in San Diego, 1973 in order to form a syncretic blend of extended and unusual vocal techniques rooted in the Tantric rituals of North India, Mongolia and Tibet.
Breathtaking (pardon the pun) in its focussed scope and concentrated execution, The Tail of the Tiger is essentially a seminal treatise on humanity’s most archaic, and, perhaps original, instrument - the voice, and its psychedelic efficacy.
It may be rooted in the avant-garde but, the vast majority of individuals are equally qualified to judge its merits and effect - after all, we’ve all made some strange noises with our gobs before, right? And with particular regard to those curdled overtones, its vibrations trigger something way beyond received knowledge and firmly based in the experiential - using the voice as an echo locator, meditative tool, or simply as a gobsh*te - we’ve all got a deeply instinctive connection to its tone, timbre and meaning.
Which is possibly where the magic of these recordings lie - in the surreal space perceived between the sounds made by the bodies, and the seemingly preternatural overtones created when they overlap and harmonise in mind-bending clusters.
We can only imagine what it must have felt like to experience these techniques centuries and millenia ago in less “enlightened” times, and to be fair, even though we can explain some of it away with science nowadays, we’d speculate that the effect of Prima Materia is more or less the same: utter-ly mystical, transcendent.