Nate Wooley / David Grubbs / Paul Lytton  >  SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN  >  Important  > 
Originally commissioned for Dave Douglas' FONT Festival in New York and >
based on the namesake book by Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain is a >
record whose layers, superimposed and stretched, disclose an underworld of >
unexpected revelations while also fulfilling Nate Wooley's intention of >
making "a piece that had a certain feel of the ecstatic to it". This is the >
first of what Wooley has planned as a seven-part project using this >
instrumentation, namely a trio plus taped sources (on this occasion an air >
conditioner, a piano and mostly unintelligible voices); yet it's anybody's >
guess if it will reach completion, given these artists' exceedingly busy >
schedule. What's truly impressive here is how "composed" this 38-minute >
performance sounds, despite the virtual nonexistence of rehearsals prior to >
the trio's debut performance, except for the soundcheck. The musicians >
worked with a few sketchy directives concerning Lytton's percussive drive >
(when applicable) and Grubbs' droning harmonium, but basically the music is >
a simple arc structure. It begins in extreme calm, as low vibrating hums >
emerge from bushes of humid whispers; movement gradually increases in the >
central section, first with sparse notes, delirious mutterings and sinister >
noises, then with Lytton swinging furiously over Grubbs' static chords, >
while Wooley brings a touch of madness to the situation, roughening the >
textures with his gargling hoarseness and abraded clumsiness. The finale >
brings everything back to (still charged) peace, giving us a chance to >
cauterize any bleeding wound with a relatively balmy ending. What about the >
aforementioned ecstasy? Not sure that my immediate desire to repeat the >
listening experience to better focus on the murkiest particulars qualifies >
as such, but what I do know is that any release which raises more doubts >
than it offers certainties is music to my ears.–MR