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Terry Riley

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Terry Riley Shri Camel album cover
3.95 | 17 ratings | 2 reviews | 18% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Anthem Of The Trinity (9:23)
2. Celestial Valley (11:30)
3. Across The Lake Of The Ancient Word (7:25)
4. Desert Of Ice (15:10)

Total time 43:28

Line-up / Musicians

- Terry Riley / Yamaha YC-45 organ (tuned in just intonation and performed live), computer (digital delay), composer, producer

Releases information

Artwork: Barbara & Bernard Xolotl

LP CBS Masterworks ‎- M 35164 (1980, US)

CD CBS ‎- MK 35164 (1986, Europe)

Thanks to snobb for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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TERRY RILEY Shri Camel ratings distribution

(17 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(53%)
Good, but non-essential (24%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

TERRY RILEY Shri Camel reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The one feature that usually sets Terry Riley's music apart from all the electronic minimalists and new age hucksters that followed in his path is just intonation, a method of tuning instruments in which the frequency of notes are related by ratios of small whole numbers. The end result is a harmonic sound different from modern (post 18th century) western harmony that instead leans toward a sound more similar to ancient music from around the world, particularly Asia. Its this just intonation that gives Riley's music a natural grit that raises it above overly pretty new age homogeneity and makes it part of the natural world of wind whistling through the branches and small life setting a field a buzz with minute interconnecting noises.

Shri Camel is similar to other well-known Riley masterpieces, such as Rainbow in Curved Air, in that the major sound component is Riley's interweaving electronic keyboard lines treated with slightly psychedelic production. The difference with Camel is a more stately classical Asiatic sound that is accented with a more severe just intonation than usual and a slower unfolding of events that mimics classic Chinese and Korean court music. The end result is one of the finest compositions in Riley's career and one of the most beautiful albums I own.

This album is pure magic from start to finish. I read an interview with Riley in the mid-80s in which he described living on the edge of the California dessert and arising each morning before dawn to face the east in prayer and meditation. This album perfectly captures that unbelievable feeling that arises from the dessert during those poignant pre-dawn moments. Listening to this music can release long lost somber feelings of religious sobriety in the most cynical doubting Thomas.

On a compositional level I think Shri Camel stands just above much of Riley's other work in the rich detail of the interconnecting melodic lines used here. The music constantly shifts in a mirage like manner as lines come and go in subtly unpredictable ways. Since Riley plays everything manually without any sequencing, the lines can be altered ever so slightly which adds even more interest if one is trying to follow solos lines in the thick contrapuntal textures.

I've done my best to describe this album, but it is difficult, like an ancient forgotten religious ritual or mother nature itself, this music carries an ethos and magic that is hard to capture and define. It is possible though, that the beautiful art work on this album's cover captures the essence of this composition much better than my words.

Review by thellama73
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The New York Minimalist scene is often summed up in the trifecta of three popular composers, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Of the three, Riley has arguably been the most overtly experimental in his compositions, with groundbreaking pieces like "In C" and his pioneering use of tape delays to create overdubs in live performances. His music also tends to contain an element of spirituality, and like the old hippy that he is, he has not neglected the world of Eastern mysticism.

Shri Camel is Riley's exploration of the techniques he learned from years of studying Indian ragas. Indeed, his music has often been lauded as ideal for use in meditation. However, he has incorporated these techiques into his own style of composition and the music does not, in itself, sound particularly Indian. There are no sitars or tablas present, yet the complexity and form of the raga is present throughout and the pieces are at times extremely involved, with up to sixteen lines of counterpoint happening at once.

The album consists of four lengthy pieces, each performed live in the studio by Riley on a Yamaha organ, resulting in a musical pallette that is somewhat monochromatic. Riley uses a similar technique to that which Brian Eno and Robert Fripp put to great use in the seventies, looping his performance and adding parts on top of it in real time. If done wrecklessly, this can result in aural chaos that is impossibly to make sense of, but Riley has been practicing the method for decades and takes care to maintain transparency across the various lines. He also differentiates the parts by changing the settings on his organ, altering timbres and percusiveness so that the listener can distinguish his phrasing. This gives the music more depth and color, wile still maintaining a unity of sound across all four pieces.

The other unique aspect of Shri Camel is the fact that Riley has tuned his instrument using the "Just Intoneation" system which, in contrast to the equal temperment tuning used in 99.9% of Western Music, follows more closely the physical overtone series found in nature. The difference, in terms of sound, is that "Just Intonation" sounds slightly alien to the practiced ears of a modern Westerner. It strikes us as ever so slightly "off." This can be disconcerting at first, but once you are able to let go of your preconcieved notions about tuning and appreciate sound for sound's sake, it comes as a welcome relief from the sameness of the music we hear every day.

Shri Camel is a wonderful example of what Riley does best, and while it may prove difficult listening to the average person due to its unusual tuning system and reliance on a single keyboard instrument for its entire duration, it will reward those with patience by providing them with a gentle beauty not eaily found in the music of today.

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