Alex Ferris is quite obviously a genius, a 62-year-old inventor/composer who lives in the desert with his large array of giant, weird, hand-built musical instruments tuned to microtonal scales. It all sounds so impossibly obscure, esoteric, and outsider-y, but the music is beautiful. Even with it's lack of conventional instruments and standard Western "do-re-mi" scales, it's compulsively listenable. It helps that The Anarchestra (which could mean anything from Ferris solo to a large group) has a very tight rhythmic sense. His earlier pieces, performed in 4/4 time, have almost an Afro-Cuban level of funkiness. Not the sort of thing that gets play in discos, but it should.
Tho these are all instrumentals, with no noisy guitars or shouted vocals, the punk influence is clear, not just in the band name, but in the economy of the compositions. There's no long intros, drawn-out endings, or endless noodling. A piece begins with most of the instruments playing at once, all locked in, then a few minutes later, it stops. All that's missing is Dee Dee Ramone shouting "1, 2, 3, 4" between each track. There's a lot of albums, but it doesn't take hours of wading thu it all to find something good. You'll know right away. And what could be more DIY than building your own instruments?
Ferris' instruments don't create too many harsh noises. Percussion, strings, winds...it's all so musical - the heir to the Harry Partch/Moondog legacy of eccentric visionaries. More recent albums have an almost meditative calm to them, but it's more "In A Silent Way"-era Miles Davis than New Age. Too much banging-and-clanging for the yoga set.
I actively seek out both invented instrument and microtonal music, so I'm amazed that I haven't heard of this guy before, but he seems to have made little effort to connect to the music world, even the avant-garde scene. He has been coming aboveground lately, releasing an enormous amount of music on his
It's all very consistent. From what I've heard, I'd say that you could jump in anywhere, the water's fine. I happen to be listening to the "KLEKT" album as I write this, and it's probably as good a place to start as any. Highlights include the wonderfully spooky "klekt 12," and the all-too-brief 1 minute long "klekt 7." Some tracks could be "Rain Dogs"-era Tom Waits instrumentals.
Dig this 67-minute documentary:
Speaking of Harry Partch, I was amazed to read that Paul Simon is using some of Partch's instruments on his latest album. Oh great. He'll probably ruin microtonal music the way "Graceland" drove people away from the glory and wonder of African music, which sadly, to this day, still has yet to shake the hippie/urban trendy/"World Music" tag. Still, I am a little curious. Not curious to have actually listened to it yet, tho. Have any of you? Is outsider music made on homemade instruments the new NPR fad?
Here's something you most certainly will like listening to: that wonder from Down Under, Buttress O'Kneel, who's the one who hepped us to the Anarchestra in the first place. Thanks, BOK! And dig the latest release from the mistress of mad mashup madness and berserk break-core:
"Lemons": made entirely from 2 recent Beyoncé songs, chopped and sliced like, well, lemons.