Sunday, June 14, 2009

From Alalu through Abgal to the Aural unconscious

Michael Petty is a musician from Texas whose musical vision has lead him to produce some highly inventive sounds.

For those of you familiar with my blog, you may recall that I published a review of his work known as "Alalu," and perhaps this writing interested you enough that you went to Myspace and gave the player a spin. If not, I hope that you do.

Upon completion of the first review, Petty decided to mail me his recordings, and that inspired me to write another review.

Functioning in a very heady strain of ambient electronic music, his music is constructed along lines far different from traditional norms.

While Petty's music might not be everyone's cup of tea, there is something to be respected about someone who follows a particular viewpoint in the pursuit of their art. He loves this type of sound, and sticks to his vision.

This music is imbued with a sense of higher structure due to the narrative element, which is the underlying storyline that accompanies the recordings; it also serves as the genesis of the conception.

The story is one of extraterrestrials, warfare, the discovery of Earth and the creation of humanity. It's pretty wild, and worth your attention, if only to get a glimpse into Petty's fertile imagination.

The most interesting thing about the entire output is the way in which he molds the sound to suit the narrative flow of the storyline. If you know what you're listening to, in relation to the unfolding tale, you can experience the music on a different level.

Of all the albums in the series, my personal favorite is "E-A (.IV)," concerning the discovery of the earth.

As is Petty's M.O., the album release is different from the songs on MySpace; from what I can tell, the songs on Myspace are shorter and edited differently. The source material for each track seems to be the same.

I have always found that the real magic of this style is in its use of rhythm, which might be the biggest innovation revealed by this style. Here, there are no drum loops or samples. Rhythmic continuity is developed through repetition and contrast, and a very linear sense of sonic progression. Sometimes, rhythmic pulse is developed through a keyboard loop, like the middle of track 11 on Zumul. Sometimes, the rhythm results from the overall result of the layering of parts. At any rate, the rhythmic sense is entirely fluid, and in relation to the contemporary view, quite subtle.

Check out track five on the E-A player, "Tiamat." This one piece of music might possibly be my personal favorite on any of the albums. After a short introduction, these slow, ethereal chords cut through the ambient, murky drone, implying something profound, and possibly a bit "ancient," in a Lovecraftian sense. As the track unfolds, the rhythmically broad harmonies reveal themselves to be intrinsic to the structure, as their development and transformation carries the piece along. The slow drone of the harmonies mixes with the atmosphere of the rest of the arrangement like some sort of spectral vapor mixing in outer space. It's quite beautiful, and strangely moving.

The second track on the player, "Creation Chamber," is a case for variety in oneness. The track is built from a minimum of elements. The end result, like Tiamat, is something old and mysterious, containing the hint of some vast intelligence. There is also the hint of new beginnings. I suspect that the album version is much longer, as things seem to just be heating up when the player kicks over to the new track.

All in all, I find that the music Petty makes grows with time. The more you listen, the richer the rewards. There is so much going on in the music, so much densely layered information, that it is engaging as an activity unto itelf.
And that to me, is one of the hallmarks of a truly great musical experience.

Check him out at: