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Greg Kelley - I Don't Want To Live Forever

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Artist: Greg Kelley

Album: I Don't Want To Live Forever

Label: Gameboy

Review date: Jun. 23, 2005


One way to analyze music is by reducing it to a series of events over time. This is an essentially modern, deconstructed view, posed as a break from the more fluid and melodically guided precepts that governed earlier music. It's come to be categorized as "moment form," and became a catch-phrase for explaining a number of Stravinsky's multivalent and brusque pieces, in particular. Warner Brothers cartoon composer Carl Stalling's cocktail of irony and reference is another clear example. Essentially, moment form has become inseparable jarring juxtapositions and intellectual high-mindedness. The 1960s and 70s ushered in a seemingly oppositional movement in the form of a generation of Minimalist composers that for the most part uniformly rejected the form as antithetical to their ideas of organic, hypnotic concentration.

Greg Kelley's new record, on the other hand, finds a point of intersection between a reductionist strain of improvised music and this formal device. I Don't Want To Live Forever is a series of discreet, repeating homogenous moments, interspersed with brief blackouts of pure blankness. A lot like your day-to-day life.

Kelley combines this form, his intuitive focus on spare musical materials, and an extremely articulated visual language to create a narrative structure on I Don't Want To Live Forever. Over the course of the single 36-minute piece, Kelley builds a unique, hermetic series of significant motifs that are so immediately recognizable and so similar when they return, that they counteract the elapsed time. It's an exercise in both static and progressive motion. Kelley's motifs are broken up by short gaps of silence that, like a blank screen between scenes, act as anachronistic illusion.

The sounds themselves are a series of clamorous synonyms, many documented with the informality of a hand-held cassette recorder, a loaded sound symbol that carries the baggage of immediacy and frailty. Electronics crackle and then progressively erode. Floors creak, feet shuffle. A long drone gives temporary respite. I Don't Want To Live Forever is the same picture from a dozen different angles. These sounds age and become brittle, they accumulate gravel and, heading towards a screeching halt, they lapse into unrest.

Kelley seems to play out an entire life in under an hour, accentuating ambivalence over peaks and valleys. I Don't Want To Live Forever is an extremely beautiful anthology of frustrated stagnation; crimson and clover, over and over. It's a piece remarkable for its monochromatic nagging insistence as much as its constant elliptical digression.

By Matt Wellins

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