Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Hy Maya's "The Mysticism of Sound and Cosmic Language"


Smog Veil's "Platters du Cuyahoga" series continues to bring us unheard gems from the '70s heyday of Cleveland's musical underground. This latest is the logical successor to last year's release of the Robert Bensick Band's French Pictures in London and the more recent one of Allen Ravenstine and Albert Dennis' Terminal Drive

Hy Maya was an amorphous experimental ensemble, led by Bensick, which included Ravenstine, Dennis, and future Pere Ubu drummer Scott Krauss among its regular participants. The Mysticism of Sound and Cosmic Language compiles live and studio recordings, most made during the second half of 1972, to provide a snapshot of their visual art-inspired sound. (Their first gig was an art exhibit of Bensick's at Cleveland State University.) The album drops on November 24 in double LP and CD or digital download formats (the latter two including six worthwhile bonus tracks, Bensick's incandescent flute features "Amplified For Clarity" and "Orb Overview" among 'em). The tape transfers, sequencing, and mastering were the last work undertaken by longtime Pere Ubu engineer Paul Hamann, who died in September. The estimable Nick Blakey does his usual exemplary job of research and documentation.

On the opening sequence ("Awareness Now" into "Neurons Fire," recorded live at the Cellar in Sandusky), dark ambience gives way to motorik riddim with spacey slide guitar glisses and wordless vocals over a two-chord jam. "Dance of Illusion (Camel Song)," from a summer '72 rehearsal, unfolds at a leisurely pace, propelled by Krauss' busy drumming and Bob Friedhofer's hypnotically monotonous piano, with which Dennis' bowed bass and Bensick's extemporization on a variety of instruments combine to produce a soundscape where the Near Easternism of Sandy Bull and Kaleidoscope meets the early VU's droning grit. (The bonus track "Dissolving the Contradiction" from the debut art show gig lives in the same space.)

On "Consumption of the Core Self," Ravenstine's synth and tape manipulations provide a sinister introduction and contrast to the rolling acoustic sound of Cynthia Black's piano arpeggios, while on "The Fabric of Time and Space," they create a lysergically pastoral atmosphere worthy of Barrett-era Pink Floyd. "Is This the Moment (Antimatter Does Matter)," a nonlinear collage of sounds from the debut gig, and the studio-recorded "Left Brain Reflexions (Quantum Entanglement)" demonstrate that Hy Maya was exploring territory in the early '70s which bands like Ghost and Sunburned Hand of the Man would continue to inhabit in the 21st century. 

Some of the material borders on jazz: "A Quantum Mechanic Mambo (Bigfoot)" sends Bensick on safari through an electronic jungle like Miles on Get Up With It, while the opening salvo of the home-recorded "Hold the Holograph (I Think Now I See)" is Ravenstine rampant, with Krauss shadowing him every step of the way. On the live-at-the-Cellar "Ship of Fools (Dissolving the Contradiction)," Bensick blows flute squiggles and then declaims over a two-chord vamp and another motorik beat. Replete with sonic surprises, The Mysticism of Sound and Cosmic Language is a fascinating and multifaceted listen, ahead of its time and vibrantly resonant in the present.

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