|Knitting By Twilight||John Orsi||Library of Music|
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
The DIY (Do It Yerself) era has gone largely unnoted and unrecorded in print venues. It was a time in which the music world was democratizing as never before, both in terms of access and creativity. As might be expected, generous shovelfuls of every stripe of music of every possible quality issued, from wildly experimental and thought provoking to absolute shit. Just so no one gets their hopes up, I ain't going to be the one to memorialize it, but I was indeed part of that time, writing for Sound Choice and other print mags while releasing a cassette of my instrumental mostly ambientalist synth music (11 Constructions, which garnered undeservedly positive praise but didn't sell worth a damn). To this day, even with myriad hybrid styles currently vying for YouTube space, the DIY scene remains a unique phenomenon and in it can be found the lion's share of stylistic origins still rising to the ear.
I say all that because Knitting by Twilight's John Orsi has released another self-work. His stuff is always welcome no matter whether in group (Knitting by Twilight, Incandescent Sky, etc.) or solo configuration, and A Room for the Night is very reminiscent of the high point of DIY, in his case embracing such divergent talents as PBK, Schlafengarten, Mike Chocholak, Jeff Grienke, Vidna Obmana, and one of the inspirations for this release, Don Campau, as well as a cornucopia more, not to mention then outside-progbientalists like Roedelius. I'd recommend starting with the last cut on this disc, the long and captivatingly haunted transdimensional travelogue titled Two Trains Passing (Not that many Trains Pass in my Nights Anymore), the sort of thing one would expect to find in a von Triers film (Europa in this instance). However, I'm not sure that recommendation's fair, as the entirety of Room has more than a small intent to mildly or blatantly upset certain listener expectations. Thus, it might also be best just to start at the beginning.
One of the disc's more interesting features is Room's lo-fi, mid-fi, and high-fi (so that you don't mistake it for 'hi-fi') nature, traits sometimes displayed all within one song, layered one atop the other, or separately, depending on the emotions, sensations, and soundfields desired. At one time, that would've been along the lines of glitch technique but has evolved more and more to be a discreet element of the compositional palette as time goes on and hybridization expands outwards to previously unthought-of perimeters. As with the more recent of Orsi's work, synths, allsorts, found sound, and various other ingredients overshadow, abet, sandwich, and infiltrate the percussionistics to achieve a more organo-mechanical result. Hodges' Lodge even approaches a form of odd recitalistic furniture music. John advises all and sundry to listen twice through Room in order to get the sense of things properly; I say that no matter how many repeats you indulge, it'll keep changing and divulging anyway, that's its secret, so don't stop at two.
Since completing this issue's article on It's Twilight Time, I received this latest release from the label - a solo mini-album by John Orsi, percussionist and composer with Knitting By Twilight and Incandescent Sky. There are six tracks here, spontaneously composed, combining John's skilful and creative percussion style with found sounds (speech, aircraft, mechanical equipment, etc) and keyboard melodies which encompass neoclassical, movie soundtrack, world fusion (there's a few bits here and there that sound inspired by Middle Eastern and Far Eastern traditional musics), intense discordant experimentation, and ambient. There is an improvisational quality to this music, but it is intelligently done and not just a lot of noise for the sheer sake of it. There is some very inventive, individual and open minded musical exploration going on here. Available at www.itstwilightmusic.com
Rock and Reprise
I could have been John Orsi. Well, I could have been a John Orsi. I was a drummer and eventually developed into a percussionist. I was a wannabe composer. Early on in high school, I was entranced by modern composers like Ravel and Berlioz and Copland and Ives and had that leaning toward the fringe. I was handed a Schwann Catalog when I was a freshman and spent many nights leafing through it, marking possible album purchases in pencil so I didn't obscure the order information. When the money didn't flow (which was most of the time), I searched through the labels and marked the cheaper ones. Mostly, I marked Nonesuchbecause they had not only older and odder recordings of the accepted classical composers but also the new and experimental ones. I took chances. Five bucks back then got me a couple of albums which harbored music of Xenakis and Stockhausen and Cage and a mere handful of the Young Turks of what would become “New Music.” I remember when I got the first couple of albums, I was shocked. A lot of it was an electronic melange of noise strung together between chaotic flourishes of percussion. I'm not sure I liked it, but I must have. I played them a lot. And the cool thing was that as I played them, I became used to the music and started understanding what was happening. I began to discern movements and movement. I began to appreciate the flow of dissonance to melody and back. I began to appreciate the drama and comedy and angst and all of the other musical emotions in the compositions and began to realize that these were worthy of that definition, for they were compositions every bit as much as those of Beethoven and Bach and Schumann. Not of the same genre, for sure, but compositions nonetheless.
The more I listened, the more I yearned for the oddballs. I discovered Harry Partch through an episode of Omnibus, I believe (though it could have been through one of the excellent educational presentations of the arts TV presented back then). Someone mentioned Halsey Stevens alongside Copland once and I started a frustrating search for his works (I did finally find three, which I treasure to this day). Oh, I stayed with my rock 'n' roll. Nothing could jar Paul Revere & The Raiders from my head (the earlyRevere, long before the hits and Where The Action Is) nor Don & the Goodtimesnor any of the other rockers of the day, but I kept a small interest in the experimental, too.
By the time Orsi came along via Knitting By Twilight, I was ready once again to dive in. I have no idea how I came across their Riding the Way Back album but the timing could not have been more perfect. Their mixture of prog and percussion and dips into the experimental recharged the old batteries and I began my quest again. First, it wasKBT and then it was Incandescent Sky and Herd of Mers and then back to KBT(the Weathering album) and now the new John Orsi (A Room For the Night). It has been a great ride thus far, from the days of Xenakis and Stockhausen to today. It has been a great ride from that first KBT to the new Orsi, too.
I look upon A Room For the Night as a look within Orsi himself. Amongst the various movements are the brainwaves behind the music he creates. I can hear the Partch-like percussion and the keyboards of alter-consciousness and even the ambient sounds he brings in from the outside and can almost understand what he is doing and why. That is my goal in listening to most of the music I hear these days, to understand how and why. There is always a reason, don't you know, and if you become too critical you miss it.
I find myself using this new EP a lot already as background music for my writing. There is something almost meditative about it when played at very low volume and it gives me a rhythm on the keyboard. My fingers and mind seem to intertwine to the music and the words flow through the fingers. Believe it or not, I also have listened while laying back for a rest. It shouldn't work, but it does.
Head to the KBT site and do a bit of a search. It's not just John Orsi there, but Orsi has a hand in most if not all. It's worth checking out. Especially if you have a sense of adventure when it comes to music.
JOHN ORSI – IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (CD by It’s Twilight Time)
Yet another classy album put out by "it's Twilight Time". This time it's an EP by John Orsi called A Room for the Night. Those familiar with "it's Twilight Time" will know that they are recognisable for their dark ambient instrumental music, somewhat inspired by King Crimson/Robert Fripp, and A Room for the Night does fit in that mold.
Compared to other CDs I have heard from this label, I would qualify the music as more experimental and even psychedelic at times and perhaps... a little harder to digest. For example the last track, "Two Trains Passing in the Night" pretty much sounds like two trains passing in the night, but in a musical sort of way. Very interesting and original, but not a toe tapper for sure.
As usual for albums from "it's Twilight Time", the production is excellent, including the album sleeve. For the more adventurous music lovers and fans of Robert Fripp, A Room for the Night is highly recommended.
Although he would amply deserve to be a household name to devotees of progressive rock in all its forms, John Orsi is quite content to occupy a niche – as he has been doing for the past 30 years or so. The talented multi-instrumentalist and composer, hailing from the historic New England city of Providence, has been active since the early 1980s with a number of projects, which – even though they might have flown under the radar of most “mainstream” prog fans – have been characterized by a constant flow of creative ideas, as well as intensive research into the possibilities offered by percussion instruments, both canonical and unorthodox.
Since 1994, Orsi has been channeling most of his creative efforts in musical collective Knitting By Twilight, as well as a few other projects (such as Incandescent Sky and Herd of Mers), and A Room for the Night is his first solo release in quite a long time. The 23-minute EP – released in August 2012 , while Orsi and his “guitar mates” were waiting for their respective schedules to be sorted out before taking their music to the stage –has been conceived on a much smaller scale than Knitting By Twilight’s Weathering or Incandescent Sky’sFour Faradays in a Cage. On the other hand, it allows Orsi to indulge in a less formal style of composition, as well as handle all the instruments (both the “proper” and the “improper” ones, as the artist points out in the liner notes with his customary sense of humour).
Those who witnessed Dame Evelyn Glennie’s amazing performance during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics earlier this summer might be intrigued to learn that the Scottish percussionist is one of Orsi’s major influences, together with a host of other artists, some of them quite obscure, others instead familiar to a wider public. Indeed, those who are always looking for terms of comparison will recognize some echoes of Kate Bush’s most experimental work (such as showcased in her 1982 album The Dreaming) while listening to the EP.
While unlikely to attract fans of the more elaborate forms of prog, A Room for the Night is an utterly charming slice of instrumental music that is hard to label, though the ambient component of Orsi’s inspiration is very much in evidence. The six tracks – most of them rather short, with the sole exception of closer “Two Trains Passing in the Night”, which, at over 9 minutes, expands on the themes introduced by the previous compositions, reproducing the motion of a train through the alternation of different rhythm patterns – are like sonic sketches that listeners are almost encouraged to flesh out in their mind. Bound together by discreet keyboards, the music showcases Orsi’s lifelong love of percussion, bringing very unusual implements into the musical arena – such as tin pie plates and metal tubs – as well as more conventional gear, albeit belonging to different ethnic traditions than the Western one. The addition of recordings of diverse sounds and human voices (taken from real-life situations) produces the sonic equivalent of an artistic collage based on found objects – riveting to the eye (or, in this case, the ear) even in its somewhat fluid, unplanned quality. The result is 23 minutes of music that shifts from whimsical to meditative, with some occasional forays into vaguely ominous, cinematic moods created by sustained keyboard washes and subtle layers of percussion patterns.
As the previous paragraphs make it clear, a track-by-track analysis of A Room for the Night would be counterproductive, as the EP should be enjoyed as a whole – possibly, as Orsi himself suggests, with the help of headphones, and in the right situation. This is not sonic wallpaper meant to unobtrusively fade in the background, but rather the kind of ambient-tinged music that will stimulate the mind as much as the ear. With Orsi’s usual attention to the visual aspect of his productions, the lovingly-packaged CD comes accompanied by the delightful artwork of early 20th-century illustrator Kayren Draper. A delicate, almost brittle, hauntingly fascinating collection of musical pieces with no other purpose than creative expression, A Room for the Night may not be the kind of release that appeals to everyone across the progressive rock spectrum. However, just like all of Orsi’s back catalogue, it is definitely an effort highly deserving of attention on the part of adventurous listeners.
This is Book's Music
New music from John Orsi means new worlds to explore, and for A Room For The Night (it’s Twilight Time), the six songs here are meant to be filled with surprises and delight, but you’re not meant to stay there for long. Look, listen, and head out.
The music here could be considered incidental music, the kind of songs that would create susprise in any action film or drama, in fact as I was listening to “Jaldi”, it’s clock-like precision and pace made me feel like it was an indication of time for someone in a movie that was trying to crack open a safe. Without cinematic themes in mind, it could also be the sounds of a Middle Eastern or Indian marketplace at peak hour, although when is it not peak hour at the marketplace? Or perhaps it’s Asian in nature, as it sounds like three or four gamelans at once trying to sound unique among one another but still coming through. A perfect example of this is the aptly named “Togetherness”, where one might hear a xylophone or vibraphone playing along with what sounds like a room full of clocks ready to strike at the same time but doesn’t. At times, Orsi’s work seems chaotic and peculiar but I think they’re both that on purpose. Behind each assembled track is a pulse that keeps not only each song working, but the EP as a whole working as one being. “Companion Wheel” combines synthesizers and distortion (sounds like a guitar at high volume but could easily be keyboards going through effects) with the heart of the percussion in the background, and I was wondering if I should listen to the song as an entry way, a means of escape, or simply existing within the orgy of sound. The EP ends with a subtle moral of sorts called “Two Trains Passing In The Night (not that many trains pass in my nights anymore)”, and while one can listen to this as the exit in this chain of songs because I see it listed as the final track, it can also be interpreted as a beginning to, or the final destination of solitude and meditation, or simply just finality in this project, the end of the stay in a room for the night. Now it’s time to head home. It’s also the album’s longest song, and with most of the album having limited time constraints (done on purpose), hearing this is almost orgasmic, or at least it’ll make you wide-eyed and wondering where each sound will lead. Going through the last track will make one assume this was an album going on for twice its actual duration (full length of this EP is 23:10).
The progressive sense I hear comes from hearing music mixed with machinery, traffic, and natural sound as a means to convey an aura. You are perhaps put into a city unfamiliar to you, and you’re hearing quick glimpses of an audio diary, page by page. Or maybe these sounds are partly familiar to you, and you know how to get back home through the unfamiliar. I could easily see a project like this taken to other musicians, composers, and sound producers to see how far this could go, so that one can say in the room for longer than a night, or to find different delights in different rooms along the way. To simplify this, it’s like hearing the non-musical portions of Pink Floyd albums and wishing one would create more music like that. You’ve now found that album, if only for one night.
Knitting By Twilight en Incandescent Sky slagwerker John Orsi bouwt zo langzamerhand zijn eigen muzikale wereld, een koninkrijk vanwaar ons om de zoveel tijd muzikale berichten bereiken. Dit keer betreft het een ep vol werken die Orsi in zijn eentje heeft gemaakt.
De stukken zijn minder uitgekiende composities dan vondsten, van die stukken die ontstaan als een man in zijn eentje in de studio gaat zitten knutselen. Het zijn meer muzikale schilderijtjes van abstract allooi dan liedjes met een kop en een staart, meer soundtracks van dromerige films dan pakkende meezingers.
Zoals de maker al aanbeveelt, luistert deze muziek het fijnste weg tussen de schelpen van een goede koptelefoon. De stukken staan scheef van de geluidsampletjes, een soort hoorspelen zonder tekst. Zo ontstaat een sfeer waarin je even afstand neemt van je dagelijkse besognes en een licht ouderwetse wereld binnenstapt. De geluiden sluiten tamelijk naadloos aan bij de nostalgische plaatjes die op de hoes prijken, van die cartoons waar Glen Baxter een licht ironische tekst bij verzint. Zo is Two Trains Passing In The Night, verreweg het langste stuk van de plaat, in feite een pulserende synthesizerklank in combinatie met wat percussie op metalen instrumenten en het geluid van treinen. Op papier lijkt het misschien wat weinig, maar het resultaat is absoluut hypnotiserend en in de verte vergelijkbaar met de filmische muziek van drummer Terry Bozzio.
Hodges’ Lodge bestaat uit van de minimal music geleende pianoloopjes, wat ogenschijnlijk willekeurig getik en gerammel (sambaballen!) en het geluid van radio’s, vliegtuigen, kinderen, machines en nog veel meer. In Jaldi hoor ik iets dat het midden houdt tussen een nare boormachine en oriëntaals gezang. Zo is er in elk stuk heel veel te beleven en hoewel het muzikaal allemaal weinig om het lijf heeft is het wel een fascinerende ervaring.
Orsi staat met deze plaat verder af van progressieve muziek die normaal het onderwerp van onze site is, verder ook dan met zijn bekendere gezelschappen Knitting By Twilight en Incandescent Sky. Desalniettemin is “A Room For The Night” het zoveelste geslaagde, avontuurlijke album in een groeiende serie interessante en ronduit schitterend vormgegeven producties.