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Terry Riley - Descending Moonshine Dervishes CD (album) cover


Terry Riley

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3 stars Of the three electronic Terry Riley records I own (Rainbow in Curved Air, Shri Camel and this one; Descending Moonshine Dervishes) this one is probably my least favorite. Its not a bad record, just not as good as the other two. Recorded six years after the groundbreaking Rainbow, and five years prior to the more complicated and ornate Shri Camel, Dervishes can't compete with the other two because it is a live album with no overdubs which limit's the complexity of Riley's interweaving modal lines. To his credit, Riley uses tape loop echoes to sound like approximately three Terry Rileys, but its still no match for the rich tapestry of his studio albums.

The usual Riley ingredients are here; a crystal clear Yamaha organ tuned to Terry's ancient Asiatic just intonation playing layers of raga like improvisations in the right hand while the left hand provides repeating ostinatos in somber half notes for accompaniment. Its hard to tell which parts are Terry live and which parts are tape loops, his technique in this area is flawless. The overall effect is somewhat similar to a live version of Riley's previous Rainbow release. This is a beautiful and meditative record that only pales when compared to Riley's more developed works, but still, if you enjoy Rainbow in Curved Air, you will probably find much to like here.

Report this review (#303289)
Posted Monday, October 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is a live recording made in Berlin on November 29, 1975 but apparently not released until 1982. Especially at the beginning, Descending Moonshine Dervishes bears some similarities to the second disk of Riley's Persian Surgery Dervishes (1972), but it wouldn't surprise me to find that there were additional iterations composed and/or recorded between these two.

Descending Moonshine Dervishes is a much more challenging listen than Persian Surgery Dervishes, if for no reason other than the tuning(s) Riley uses on the electric organ. For lack of more precise terms, I would say that the tuning gives the music a "raga" or Indian feel. But some of the transitions are jarring to my western ear.

Descending is also busier than Persian, using several rhythm-offset tape loops of what sounds like sequencers - - akin, not surprisingly, to the overlapping sequences on The Who's "Baba O'Riley." (Get it?) But at nearly fifty-two minutes, Descending has plenty of time to grow, and by the middle of the piece, a nearly rhythmless serenity has settled in, and a more western tuning has returned. The sequences reassert themselves over the last ten minutes, only to dissolve into a chord at the end.

Although Descending Moonshine Dervishes strikes me as a bit unfocused at times, it is pretty fantastic as a whole. I do wish the sound quality was better, but I guess it was recorded at a festival with whatever equipment was on hand. So it it what it is.

A demanding listen, especially during the first half, but a rewarding one.

Report this review (#2171186)
Posted Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Review Permalink

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