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Terry Riley

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Terry Riley A Rainbow In Curved Air album cover
4.35 | 88 ratings | 9 reviews | 48% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. A Rainbow In Curved Air (18:40)
2. Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band (21:40)

Total time 40:20

Line-up / Musicians

- Terry Riley / organ, "rocksichord" & electric harpsichord (1), dumbek & tambourine (1), soprano sax (2), composer

Releases information

Artwork: John Berg

LP Columbia Masterworks ‎- MS 7315 (1969, US)
LP Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLECLP 2306 (2015, UK)

CD CBS ‎- MK 7315 (1990, US) New cover art
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC 2306 (2012, UK) Remastered by Ben Wiseman, original cover

Thanks to snobb for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy TERRY RILEY A Rainbow In Curved Air Music

TERRY RILEY A Rainbow In Curved Air ratings distribution

(88 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(48%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (16%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

TERRY RILEY A Rainbow In Curved Air 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 It has been more than forty years since this record was released and modern electronic music still has not moved much further than the parameters laid down by this definitive album. Before there was Klause Schultze, Edgar Froese, Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Brian Eno, acid house and trance there was Terry Riley and his desire to perform classical Indian music on modern electronic instruments. Within the first few minutes of side one (A Rainbow in Curved Air) the future of electronic music is spelled out in pulsing modal eighth notes topped with squiggly sitar like sixteenth notes that will become the soundtrack for 70s German rock experimentalists and an entire rave generation in the 90s. On side two (Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band) Riley brings us the sustained homogenous sounds that will become known, under the guiding hands of Brian Eno, as ambient music. Terry's hyper echoed saxophone lines that enter half way through this side add an electronic avant-jazz flavor that was well imitated by The Soft Machine on their IIIrd album.

Despite its popularity with the hippie generation, the music on this album has aged nicely. The Rainbow side is still one of the finest pieces of tonal electronic music I own, and the Poppy Nogood side is nice too, although the virtuoso saxophone excursions do get tiresome after a while. I prefer Riley's repetitive musical figures on the keyboard more than on the saxophone. Another nice thing about this album is the extensive use of reel to reel tape loop echoes, a beautiful sound in itself.

This is one of the most important albums in recent recorded music history. From Riley's Rainbow the baton will be passed to Miles Davis and his Get Up With It experiments, then to Brian Eno and finally Bill Laswell who will complete the picture by adding Jamaican dubbing techniques to every facet and genre of music possible. From these four human pillars will come post-rock, ambient rock, ambient techno, shoe-gaze, nu jazz, acid jazz, acid house, dub, drumnbass, trip- hop, trance and many more styles still to come.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars It's hard finding the right words to speak of the genius of Terry Riley. This third album which follows the great "In C", is even better that its predecessor. Instead of minimalistic contemporary classic music we have a purely electronic performance. As In C, this "Rainbow in Curved Air", from which the omonimous Canterbury's band took its name, is based on major chords. There are no percussions of any kind, but this composition has a rhythm and a tempo. The difference with In C is that there are less repetitions. The organ interlude after 6 minutes leads to changes that are not only variations. There's a "relativistic" version of the cover sleeve that's pink with a rainbow split in two parts over a pink sky made of graph paper. It gives the idea of what a "curved air" can be.

The B side hosts "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band". It starts with an organ crescendo. This track is more similar in the structure to the famous "In C" as it's Hortophonic. Overdubbed sax, loops, it's a synthesis of what we now call electronic music. The absence of rhythm gives a sense of "liquidity" to the organ background that after 6 minutes is left alone. Over it there are sounds that make it similar to a mantra. The "Tibet Suite" of Lucia Hwong has many contact points with this suite, but even if this part can sound tibetan, Terry Riley is closer to the jazz atmospheres than to the himalayan heights, so when brass-like sounds come over the organ it sounds jazzy. Think to a more artsy relative like Blade Runner Blues. Then for some time we have just an organ chord until the jazzy or tibetan part restarts. More chaotic and electronic this time. The essence of the composition doesn't change, but it has different "colours". It's after about 13 minutes from the start that we can clearly hear the sax. The basic chord is now minor, and even if from a perspective it adds a bit of dramaticity, from another it's quite sad music and can be a little boring, but just try to imagine Miles Davis playing his trumpet on this base. The theme doesn't change much until the end, there are true or electronic instruments coming and going until the organ is left alone, and the song is over.

Is it an essential masterpiece? I think so, specially if you like Krautrock or Progressive Electronic. This album and its predecessor are where it all started.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Providing sounds 20 years ahead of its time - literally, there's points where you'd swear those were crisp 80s-era digital synths playing - A Rainbow In Curved Air is, of course, an inspirational model for the electronic scene, laying the groundwork for every synthesiser wizard with a perchant for side-long tracks afterwards. What's particularly notable about the title track is how busy it is - this is not a classic era Klaus Schulze composition with glacier-like slabs of electronics moving at a sedate and relaxing pace, there's a lot going on at any particular time. At points it reminds me of Mike Oldfield - check out the organ that kicks in at just over six and a half minutes in and you'll see what I mean. The second track, Pappy Nogood and the Phantom Band, is a free jazz composition reminiscent of some of Robert Wyatt's early solo work that, again, manages to introduce sufficient variation that it never becomes boring. Proof that not only was Terry Riley one of the first to play electronic music, he was also one of the first to play it well.
Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Without question this is one of the earliest Electronic albums and I would also include Holger Czukay's "Canaxis" album from the same year (1969) in this category. We get two side long suites from this innovative American. "A Rainbow In Curved Air" opens with organ as these hyper sounding synth-like expressions come in around a minute.They sound like they swallowed helium.They stop after 6 1/2 minutes as the organ continues. It sounds like percussion before 9 1/2 minutes then we get a more powerful sound before 11 minutes.It settles back a minute later as percussion and organ lead.The hyper synth-like sounds are back to end it. "Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band" opens with atmosphere that builds until we get wave after wave overwelming us. A deep hum comes in before 5 1/2 minutes and takes over. Other sounds join in. A powerful atmosphere arrives 10 1/2 minutes then we get these horn expressions that take over and stay until 21 minutes in as atmosphere ends it. This is certainly a must for Electronic collectors out there or anyone who is a big fan of that genre.
Review by Guillermo
4 stars The recent death of ISAO TOMITA (22 April 1932 / 5 May 2016) made me remember an EP disc which was included as a bonus promotional disc in WENDY (THEN KNOWN AS WALTER) CARLOS's LP album "The Well Tempered Synthesiser" (1969) that my father bought in 1969-1970. I think that at that time my father was discovering Electronic Music during a time when it became popular maybe more thanks to CARLOS's "Switched-On Bach" album from 1968. Both of CARLOS's albums which I mentioned above had the characteristic of having music composed by J.S. Bach played with Moog Synthesisers. At that time those albums were seeing as very "revolutionaty" in music, and particularly "Switched-On Bach" was a very successful and popular album. That EP had a fragment from a work which was played and recorded by another Electronic Music pioneer called TERRY RILEY. I think that it was a fragment from the Side One of this album, called "A Rainbow in Curved Air" (1969), but I can't remember well now. Anyway, recently I had the opportunity to listen to this album as a whole for the very first time.

In contrast to TOMITA and CARLOS, who used synthesisers for their albums, RILEY in this album only used more "conventional" keyboards, like organ and harpsichord, plus some percussion instruments.

The "A Rainbow in Curved Air" title musical piece in the Side One of the LP is inlfuenced a lot by Indian music, with a drone effect done by a single note played in an organ, plus several other organ parts playing scales in a "geometrical" way. The music is so well synchronised that it never loses a beat. Maybe RILEY used some recorded tape loops to create this sequence of sounds. It is so well done that the music never loses its "geometric pattern". And while the repetition of this pattern goes on and on, there is a lot of variety and even improvisation with some keyboard parts who play melodies and scales at the front of the loops. It never tired me as a listener. It has to be remembered that this album was recorded a long time before the arrival of programmed synthesisers and keyboards. So, a lot of work could have been done in the late sixties by RILEY and his production team to achieve this.

"Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band", in the Side Two fo the LP, also has a lot of Influence from Indian Music, with again a drone effect done by some keyboards. This musical piece is less "melodic" than the first, even a bit noisy in some parts, but it is also very good. Again, I could listen to the "geometric effect" produced by the tape loops. In this musical piece RILEY also played on saxophones a lot of melodies and solos, recording several sax parts. This musical piece maybe also has some influences from KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN, another musician who also was a pioneer and contributor to the experimental music of the 20th Century, and another composer which my father listened to sometimes.

A very good electronic / experimental music album from the late sixties. It also influenced PETE TOWNSHEND from THE WHO, who was inspired by RILEY's work to create the keyboard parts which TOWNSHEND played for "Baba O' Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", both being songs which he composed and recorded with THE WHO for their "Who's Next" album from 1971.

Review by Progfan97402
5 stars This is without a doubt a landmark in the world of minimalist music, and perhaps one of the finest examples of the style you're going to hear. I am not going to get into some intellectual ramblings, which seems to be a big habit when many review his music. I don't have some fancy PhD or from an upper-middle class background, what concerns me is the music. This album no doubt had a huge impact on the progressive electronic scene. You can notice the influence of this album and Terry Riley in general on Galactic Explorers' Epitaph For Venus (you can get this on CD on the Psi-Fi label), for example, and mid period Tangerine Dream probably would not be where they were without Riley. Outside the progressive electronic world Soft Machine was inspired by this. Make no doubt that "Out Bloody Rageous ", for example has this album written all over it, especially all those droning organs and those electric piano passages. "A Rainbow in Curved Air" (the track) features a bunch of overlapping organ and electric harpsichords, it seems a lot of tape loops are being used to create some of these effects heard here. He appears to use a Yamaha organ, rather than the standard Hammond organ. "Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band" features not just his reed playing, but a droning organ. This piece is really dark and ominous. It's hard to believe the recordings came out in 1969 (but composed some time earlier, apparently around 1966-67). it's definitely much more in tune with the next decade, as far removed from flower power, and images of psychedelic painted VW buses, as you can imagine but still have a psychedelic trip, but hardly a pop psychedelic trip like you would the Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints". This is nothing short of an essential album that's a must have.

Latest members reviews

5 stars This is in many ways on album of opposites or, rather, dualities. Let's see. As a whole it sounds very much of its time (late 60s) yet it's somehow unexplainably ageless. It utilizes technology (tape loops, delay fx...) yet it's very warm, earthy and spiritual. It also works great as deep liste ... (read more)

Report this review (#2497909) | Posted by Hiram | Friday, January 29, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars OK, so you don't get to hear any guitars or drums. However, you get to hear some truly revolutionary music here. In his book 'The Ambient Century' an Irish writer Mark J. Prendergast claims the album to be closely related to ambient or just being ambient. Well, the first track isn't really a ... (read more)

Report this review (#731350) | Posted by Dayvenkirq | Tuesday, April 17, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I am incredibly excited to see Terry Riley on the 'chives. Although his music is not usually considered progressive, Terry Riley shares the ethos of many late 60's and early 70's groups. The harmonious convergence between progressive/proto-progressive groups of the era and Terry Riley is a great ... (read more)

Report this review (#302587) | Posted by Rosebud | Thursday, October 7, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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