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Album Review

JOHN ORSI
A Room For the Night

I could have been John Orsi. Well, I could have been a John Orsi. I was a drummer and eventually developed into a percussionist. I was a wannabe composer. Early on in high school, I was entranced by modern composers like Ravel and Berlioz and Copland and Ives and had that leaning toward the fringe. I was handed a Schwann Catalog when I was a freshman and spent many nights leafing through it, marking possible album purchases in pencil so I didn't obscure the order information. When the money didn't flow (which was most of the time), I searched through the labels and marked the cheaper ones. Mostly, I marked Nonesuch because they had not only older and odder recordings of the accepted classical composers but also the new and experimental ones. I took chances. Five bucks back then got me a couple of albums which harbored music of Xenakis and Stockhausen and Cage and a mere handful of the Young Turks of what would become “New Music.” I remember when I got the first couple of albums, I was shocked. A lot of it was an electronic melange of noise strung together between chaotic flourishes of percussion. I'm not sure I liked it, but I must have. I played them a lot. And the cool thing was that as I played them, I became used to the music and started understanding what was happening. I began to discern movements and movement. I began to appreciate the flow of dissonance to melody and back. I began to appreciate the drama and comedy and angst and all of the other musical emotions in the compositions and began to realize that these were worthy of that definition, for they were compositions every bit as much as those of Beethoven and Bach and Schumann. Not of the same genre, for sure, but compositions nonetheless.

The more I listened, the more I yearned for the oddballs. I discovered Harry Partch through an episode of Omnibus, I believe (though it could have been through one of the excellent educational presentations of the arts TV presented back then). Someone mentioned Halsey Stevens alongside Copland once and I started a frustrating search for his works (I did finally find three, which I treasure to this day). Oh, I stayed with my rock 'n' roll. Nothing could jar Paul Revere & The Raiders from my head (the early Revere, long before the hits and Where The Action Is) nor Don & the Goodtimes nor any of the other rockers of the day, but I kept a small interest in the experimental, too.

By the time Orsi came along via Knitting By Twilight, I was ready once again to dive in. I have no idea how I came across their Riding the Way Back album but the timing could not have been more perfect. Their mixture of prog and percussion and dips into the experimental recharged the old batteries and I began my quest again. First, it was KBT and then it was Incandescent Sky and Herd of Mers and then back to KBT (the Weathering album) and now the new John Orsi (A Room For the Night). It has been a great ride thus far, from the days of Xenakis and Stockhausen to today. It has been a great ride from that first KBT to the new Orsi, too.

I look upon A Room For the Night as a look within Orsi himself. Amongst the various movements are the brainwaves behind the music he creates. I can hear the Partch-like percussion and the keyboards of alter-consciousness and even the ambient sounds he brings in from the outside and can almost understand what he is doing and why. That is my goal in listening to most of the music I hear these days, to understand how and why. There is always a reason, don't you know, and if you become too critical you miss it.

I find myself using this new EP a lot already as background music for my writing. There is something almost meditative about it when played at very low volume and it gives me a rhythm on the keyboard. My fingers and mind seem to intertwine to the music and the words flow through the fingers. Believe it or not, I also have listened while laying back for a rest. It shouldn't work, but it does.

Head to the KBT site and do a bit of a search. It's not just John Orsi there, but Orsi has a hand in most if not all. It's worth checking out. Especially if you have a sense of adventure when it comes to music.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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