A Guide for Reason - I - VI [Faith Strange - 2011]The New York art punk/funk scene of the mid to late eighties first saw Mike Fazio playing guitar alongside a few friends and acquaintances to form a small network of bands including Chill Faction, Black 47 and Life with the Lions. After a seemingly inactive nineties he remerged as orchestramaxfieldparrish, a solo project where he developed his guitar playing into nebulous, ambient waves, adding synthesised layers to form lush, ambient orchestrations. But little of this background is discernible on this new project of Fazio’s recorded in June 2009, which blends an array of field recordings with idiosyncratic electronics to form six compelling collages.
‘A Guide for Reason’ was how Ptolemais of Cyrene, a musicologist from over 2,000 years ago no less, saw the role of perception or sensory experience in sparking a more theoretical compositional process, perhaps suggesting that the work presented here is primarily sensual, designed to inspire the listener to form their own narratives. Meanwhile the often lengthy track titles all seem to be aphorisms optimistically guiding the listener on how to perceive.
But the sound of ‘A Guide for Reason’ is a loose and strange one that feels more like a single, hour long work than six distinct pieces. The first half is like a slide show of alien anecdotes, from the opener’s series of textured shifting electronic shards that disappear no sooner than they arrive framed by a deep silence or undercut by the odd percussive pop, to other glitchy fragments that get slowed, reversed, scratched and sprayed with static that overlap tracks 3 and 4. Despite the uneven panoply, the disk feels like it is heading somewhere and that place is ‘Out From Which Comes The Beginning’, the final 13 minutes of the disk that orchestrates a series of whirring metallic tones possessing the ‘ribbed’ qualities of a plastic card strumming the spokes of a spinning bicycle wheel. Like a cabaret plate-spinner the tones eventually falter and require regular recharging while deep, resonant liquid notes and hi-pitched whistles subtly form a shifting backdrop. Surprisingly, the striking irregularities are smoothed out across the last three minutes by a regular Autechre-lite beat that skips and shuffles the disk to an uncharacteristic close.
Most unusual, though, for a largely abstract electronic work is the optimistic feel that Fazio works into the mix. This is not your typical so-called ‘dark ambient’ work that tends to describe a post-apocalyptic misery, but feels more like a Life magazine article from the 50s that optimistically welcomes future feats of engineering. In this way, ‘A Guide for Reason I – VI’ comes on like a literal form of industrial music by celebrating engineered processes and patterns through sound. And while the sleevenotes indicate electrical generators and diesel locomotive engines as some of the sound sources, Fazio has processed the results with such clean and microscopic detail that the sounds easily transcend their significance, creating a charming and mysterious montage.Russell Cuzner