On Jones Beach
Three Lobed Recordings was first exposed to studio sounds from the long-running but profoundly under-recorded Glacial in 2008. That introduction came in the form of the first track on Lee Ranaldo’s contribution to the Oscillation III series, Maelstrom From Drift. The sounds generated by Ranaldo, David Watson and Tony Buck were enveloping and other-worldly – immediately I knew I needed to hear more. Once asked if more studio evidence of this project existed, Lee was quick to answer “oh, yes.” Now, in 2012 Three Lobed Recordings is exceptionally excited to present On Jones Beach, the trio’s debut full-length release. Much like that track from 2008, this album is a majestic and ambitious journey unlike anything else going on in either the underground or the mainstream. Here are some thoughts on this album from James “Wooden Wand” Toth:
“On Jones Beach reflects three men at the top of their craft. Recorded in 2005 at Sonic Youth’s Echo Canyon studios, the album proper is made up of a single titular piece that runs almost 48 minutes. What’s stunning is how the trio appears, in that time, to charter a tour of the last 40+ years of guitar-based psychedelic improv. You’ve got your supremely stoned ambient drone, your slack-stringed doom metal guitar minimalism, your groovy post-Branca skronk, your devotional New Thing-indebted bleats and tantrums. More impressive than the amount of ground covered during this running time is the fact that these players can make these elements blend so seamlessly and so completely artfully.
At the risk of relying on tired and obvious clichés, Glacial is a great name for this group – it doesn’t take a whole lotta reefer or imagination to envisage this album as the soundtrack to the melting of polar ice caps, or some ominous continental disruption. Watson concurs. “The name ‘Glacial’ came from someone in the audience after our first gig, describing what the music felt like,” he says. “Powerful but slow moving masses of energy.” This is no hyperbole – the idiomatic lyricism displayed over the duration of On Jones Beach eerily evokes drifting, majestic monoliths like few other albums to make such potentially damnable and high-minded claims.
And this is all before you consider the bagpipes. Even among the many truly drone-based instruments at the disposal of an adventurous musician in 2012, there is surprisingly little evidence of the use of bagpipes in an avant context. Albert Ayler’s less celebrated later work comes to mind, as do the experiments of seminal ethno-noise punks Amps for Christ, but overall, it is a neglected tool in the improvising musician’s toolbox. Here, Watson’s exemplary command of the instrument makes a solid case for not only its inclusion in the future of improvised music but its ubiquity, as it rises about halfway through the piece to an assertive, unexpected prominence amidst the impressionistic din. Elsewhere it holds court alongside Ranaldo’s yearning guitar drones, which frequently resemble a horde of audible sun rays (I mean that in a good way), while drummer Buck approaches the kit with Sunny Murray-like symphonic colorations. Buck, best known for his brilliant work with Australia’s The Necks, is always a contemplative, thoughtful percussionist, and he’s especially powerful here. Late in the piece, when only he remains for a solo section of ritualistic rattle before being joined again by Ranaldo, this time on a smattering of bells and pieces of metal, the effect is transportive.
The entirety of On Jones Beach moves like a classic ESP side, with long spaces for solo sections giving way to bone-rattling, protean group improv, and then back again. And like those best ESP sides, the featured players achieve incantation by their ability to listen and respond via contemplation in motion, without ever sacrificing cohesion for cacophony, as is the tendency among less intuitive improvisers. There is profound virtuosity here on the part of all three conjurers, who spellbind and astonish in the tradition of the heaviest spirits. You really should be writing all this down.”