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- They make impact a state of being rather than a discrete event. As single-minded as the music may seem at first strike, it exists at higher elevations -- of decibel, intensity, motion, color, temperature -- and spills freely over the walls of genre, magma into new land. It is punk in its fury, noise in its rash extremity, and progressive in form: small-p pro-gress as a verb, progress progress progress, move move move, forward onward upward. An unceasing coiling in and exploding out. The Psychic Paramount is always moving, and you will feel the wind in the hair between your whitening knuckles. Life Coach, a title inspired by Tony Williams Lifetime and Charles Bullen's Lifetones project, is a dynamic collection of instrumental songs composed, performed, and recorded entirely by Phil. While there are reflections of Phil's work in Trans Am, Oneida, The Fucking Champs, and Jonas Reinhardt that a listener familiar with those bands will notice, Life Coach is more minimal and adheres to the structures of German rock of the mid 70's that has long inspired Phil, specifically the free-spirited and loose arrangements, the propulsive "motorik" pulse, and the sonic textures or "Klangfarben" (translated "sound colors"). German analog recording technology had reached its zenith in the late 70's. This coincided nicely with the careers of such artists as Neu!, Kraftwerk, Harmonia, Cluster and Popol Vuh. German recording engineer Connie Plank, a hero of Phil's, was responsible for most of the greatest recordings of each of these bands. Life Coach pays homage to the "Klangfarben" of Connie Plank's recordings. In order to achieve the desired results, Phil reached most often for his Fender Telecaster electric guitar because of its "bell-like" tone. Generally speaking, plugging his guitar directly into his API preamps achieved the most "direct" sound by literally cutting out the amplifier stage from the signal chain. This positions the musician and the listener that much closer together, something that the personal nature of this music and the process demanded. For the acoustic numbers, Phil used his vintage 1967 Gibson Country-Western steel string acoustic guitar. This guitar was miked with a highly sensitive and expensive Neumann condenser microphone to capture all the nuance and detail of his finger picking. The signal was left clean with little to no processing, and no equalizers or compressors. "These devices tend to cloud the signal and interfere with the natural sound of the source," says Phil. A varied compliment of synthesizers were used to make this record including a Roland Juno 60, Crumar Orchestrator (a gift from old friend and sometimes Trans Am producer John McEntire), Roland Organ Strings, Arp String Ensemble, Mini Moog and Roland GR-20 guitar synth. All synths were played live, eschewing sequencers for a more human feel. Finally a Roland TR-606 Drumatix drum machine was used for its "warm" analog sound quality. This deeply personal debut solo recording comes well into Phil Manley's musical career. The song titles and the album title reflect to a large extent Phil's sense of humor, well known to most Trans Am fans. He has always been the kind to poke fun at rock's history and habits. To those of us who have had the pleasure of working closely with him, it is a reflection of his modesty. He is a man who has made a considerable mark on independent music. He has already had a lifespan that exceeds most bands in this world, and yet he never has fallen prey to taking himself too seriously. He only takes his music seriously, the rest he takes with a large grain of salt. Lost in the Glare is Barn Owl's second album for Thrill Jockey, and follows quickly on the heels of their acclaimed 12" EP Shadowland. Like Shadowland the album was recorded to tape by Phil Manley in San Francisco's Lucky Cat Studios. Lost in the Glare is made up of material composed over the course of a year and recorded in sessions throughout the winter of 2010. At the heart of the album's sound is the dual guitar interaction between Caminiti and Porras, a spiraling web of interlocking gestures that give way to bone rattling, monolithic progressions and dusty drifts. The mostly finger picked guitars weave in and out of each other in precise movements that recall the hypnotic influence of American minimalists. The harmonium that was prevalent on previous recordings has been replaced on Lost in the Glare with the undulations of a Farfisa organ. The songs here are deep, cosmic excursions. Rich in dynamics, the record possesses a transcendental tone through both a densely layered combination of electric and acoustic instruments and walls of melting amplifiers and feedback alchemy. The lines between strict structure and ordered chaos blur as third-eye opening e-bowed drones explode like beams of light and corrode into crumbling distortion, baking tones that sizzle like brittle bones left in the desert sun. Between rhythmic, turning strums that recall Saharan twilight, radiant synth swells and choral clusters that echo the desolation of deep space, the duo's sound has no doubt ascended from it's desert-rock roots into a new, beaming realm. Evocative as they are, the sounds here aren't easy to tie down to particular imagery. A myriad of influences from blues and raga to the guitar style most often associated with the Tuareg people meld into a new universal sound that can only be described as cosmic and sublime. In addition to guitars and organ, Lost in the Glare features a Juno 60, manipulated cassette tapes, tanpura and gong played by Michael Elrod (The Alps, Date Palms), Steve Dye on bass clarinet (Portraits), and the crucial contribution of drummer Jacob Felix Heule. Heule's playing is paradoxically heavy and commanding, subtle and elegant. Morphing from hypnotic processions to abstract ritualistic clatter and orchestral swells, his addition to Barn Owl takes the sound to new heights. Just returned from a month long tour of Europe with Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, San Francisco-based Barn Owl are gearing up for some US dates in support of Lost in the Glare.
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