Glenn Branca – The Ascension (1981)


“If one chooses to categorize the music on this recording as ‘rock,’ this is surely one of the greatest rock albums ever made. But there’s the rub. While sporting many of the trappings of the genre — the instrumentation (electric guitars), the rhythms, the volume, and, most certainly, the attitude — there is much about The Ascension that doesn’t fit comfortably into the standard definition of the term. Not only does the structure of the compositions appear to owe more to certain classical traditions, including Romanticism, than the rock song form, but Branca‘s overarching concern is with the pure sound produced, particularly of the overtones created by massed, ‘out of tune,’ excited strings and the ecstatic quality that sound can engender in the listener. Though his prior performing experience was with post-punk, no-wave groups like the Static and Theoretical Girls, it could be argued that the true source of much of the music here lies in the sonic experimentation of deep-drone pioneers like La Monte Young and Phil Niblock. Happily, the music is accessible enough that one can jump right in, regardless of one’s direction of approach. Branca‘s band, unlike some of his later enormous ensembles, is relatively modest (four guitars, bass guitar, and drums), so the sound is comparatively clear and each member’s contributions may be easily discerned. The chiming notes that begin ‘The Spectacular Commodity’ are allowed to hover in the air, awash in overtones, before being subsumed into a rolling groove that picks up more and more intensity as guitar chords cascade one atop another, threatening to, but never succeeding in, toppling the whole affair. ‘Structure’ plays with sonic torque, whipsawing between two differently stressed voicings of the same theme, pulling them back and forth like taffy.  …”
allmusic (Audio)
W – The Ascension
Pitchfork
Discogs (Video)
Soundcloud: The Spectacular Commodity (Excerpt)
YouTube: The Ascension 1981 (Full LP) 42:11

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