Boomkat Product Review:
First vinyl edition of the 1995 drone masterpiece by Stuart Dempster - a close affiliate of Pauline Oliveros/Deep Listening Band and Merce Cunningham Dance Company - making an array of conch shells, trombone and didgeridoo sound uncannily electronic in a cavernous WWII-era water cistern
Utilising the 45 second acoustic reverb of the facility at Fort Worden State Park in Pt. Townsend, Washington, Stuart Dempster confounds the senses with an hour of diaphanous ambient on ‘Underground Overlays From The Cistern Chapel’. In key with the cistern’s colloquial name, ‘Cistern Chapel’, Dempster’s music imparts a clear sense of beatific wonder with seven pieces that play into, and with, the space’s capacity to hold 2 million gallons of water, or in this case his voluminous blasts of brass, wood and shell, to haunting and healing effect.
The album picks up where Dempster left off with Oliveros and Panaiotis on 1989’s legendary cistern recordings found in ‘Deep Listening’, again wielding conch, trombone and didgerdoo in the same space, but here leading a phalanx of nine other trombonists and players to stimulate the most atavistic and metaphysical senses. It’s one of those records that simply must be experienced to be understood, and preferably with a decent system to best represent and convey their oceanic swells of overtone play and sustained bliss.
‘Conch Calling’ is as evocative as listening to a shell on the beach as a kid, and peals across the ages with ancient knowledge amplified and rendered jaw-dropping by the space, while ‘Morning Light’ dawns nine minutes of angelic, tongue-tip beauty derived from the massed trombones, also found in the glorious fanfare of ‘Secret Currents’ and tempered to spine-tarcign effect in ‘Cloud Landings’. If those pieces make one think they’re hearing electronic sources, then the thickening overtones of ‘Didjerilayover’ will baffles perceptions further, sounding like a plane in the distance or Aborigines preparing for war.