Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Psi Corps - "Tekeli-li"

Here’s the second CD in recent months from Alisa Coral and Michael Blackman and, following on from the extreme metal of Space Mirror’s Majestic 12, they’re off at another tangent in this collection of cinematic instrumentals under the name Psi-Corps. And like other discs reviewed here recently, they’ve taken literary influences to shape their musical ambitions. For “Tekeli-li” is an aural representation of Edgar Allan Poe’s South Pole novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a controversial entry from Poe’s canon originally published in 1838. Now, at this point I’ll confess to not having read this particular work but have certainly become intrigued by reading up on the Internet on the various theories and speculations regarding this fantastical tale that the entry-writer at Wikipedia describes as a ‘fairly conventional adventure at sea’ but which ‘becomes increasingly strange and hard to classify’.

So that’s another entry on my ‘to investigate’ list and I mention it as an aside to reviewing this highly accomplished and very well imagined suite of composition. But it’s right to note that the success of an artistic endeavour that sets out to take a narrative or an impression from one medium and transplant it as a personal reflection in another can often be summed up by how well it sends the, in this instance, listener, off to the source. So I can’t evaluate, for the moment, how well these soundscapes reflect the material from which they were dreamed, but on a level of how well the album works in creating an interest in where it originally sprang from, I’ll judge it a success.

Whilst Space Mirrors sees Alisa and Michael working across the ether with a range of notable musicians, here their two-way Internet collaborations remain strictly between themselves, with Michael contributing his fluid guitar-work across Alisa’s range of synthesizers, theremin, bass and drums. This leads to a compactness of sound in one respect, so whilst the tracks are extended and seem to shift their moods on whim there’s an organisation to the composing that suggest a considered, almost plotted, structure to the music that again falls in-line with this being a literary adaptation.

In this instance, then, I’m going to do something I’ve not done before and that’s to simply note here that this is a clever and complex collection of recordings, absorbing and multi-faceted and well-worth investigation – and revisit this review in a few weeks once I’ve had a chance to read Poe’s book and properly understand what this music is reflecting. Then I’ll post a little more here on it, which hopefully will embrace how well its six-tracks, starting with Pym’s departure, through his sea voyaging to the land of Tsalal and eventually to the Hollow Earth, realise the source narrative. Which should be an interesting voyage in and of itself.

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