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The Tower Recordings: The Galaxies’ Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of the Tower Recordings


The Tower Recordings: The Galaxies’ Incredibly Sensual Transmission Field of the Tower Recordings

Label:Communion
Format:Album
Media:CD
Release Date:2005
Genre:Folk

By Marc Masters | Posted 1/19/2005

The Tower Recordings and Hall of Fame have been conspicuously absent in the three years since each band last released an album. Both groups honed their edgy avant-folk in relative obscurity during the ’90s and have since moved closer to a media spotlight thanks to the likes of Devendra Banhart, Six Organs of Admittance, and Sunburned Hand of the Man. Even though Transmission Field and Paradise Now were recorded in 2001, they fit easily into the here and now, except both groups are too idiosyncratic and ambitious to sound like anyone but themselves.

Neither band sounds completely like itself this time around, though, a testament to the two ensembles’ endless search for new sounds. Transmission Field, recorded in an upstate New York church by a revolving lineup of eight musicians centered around Matt Valentine and Pat Gubler, is a sprawling, expansive mesh of rough folk, improvised rock, and loads of other unclassifiable sounds. Previous Tower Recordings albums, though never narrow, feel nearly claustrophobic compared to Transmission Field, whose greater clarity and more open, rambling feel give it a musical range deep enough to spend months in.

Each of Transmission Field’s six tracks is a mini-universe of stretched-out, far-reaching sound. “Empress of I-91” opens with a rolling line of acoustic guitar that hurtles forward like an 18-wheeler, collecting various rattles, claps, and strums under its galloping wheels. “Giggy Garbage Gods (777)” follows with clinking piano, seesaw bass, and the moaning prayers of Helen Rush and Samara Lubelski (who’s also a member of Hall of Fame), shifting the record’s gears into a cloudy fog of ethereal mist. Later, “Forum” descends into blurry, blasting noise, while the album-closing “Other Kinds Run” sounds like a battle between “Tomorrow Never Knows”-era Beatles and the Velvet Underground circa “European Son.” Throughout, Transmission Field consistently impresses with its bottomless well of ideas and actions.

Hall of Fame’s previous albums veered from early-Velvets avant-experiments to miles-away folk. It lasers its focus on Paradise Now, a monotone, hypnotic album of single-minded guitar tangling closest in tone to the Velvets’ masterfully restrained third album. Chiming, intertwining guitar lines are layered under Lubelski’s far-off vocals and washed with intermittent, whispery drums. Highlights include the intricate “Endless Returns,” the mournful “Hall of Fire,” and the achingly classic “My Sweet Miasma,” whose melody sounds uncannily eternal, as if it had been percolating in the earth’s core for millennia. Throughout, the band’s sound is so distant and subdued that it feels like the fading echo of something that happened years before, and both Hall of Fame’s and the Tower Recordings’ ability to forge sounds that still feel fresh and unexpected after years of silent gestation bodes well for their futures.

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