Dusted Reviews

Prima Materia - The Tail of the Tiger

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Prima Materia

Album: The Tail of the Tiger

Label: Die Schachtel

Review date: Jan. 16, 2006

It was only under the gaze of soft morning light that I noticed the hidden layer of cover art that adorns the most recent Die Schachtel release. Composed in the label’s telltale silver on white motif, the jpeg file may slightly capture the gorgeous Tibetan mandala, but nothing more. Only when physically held in hands toward the light does the cover reveal an ornate exploding blastula pattern etched in a clear gloss. And wait until you see the transparent booklet of more complex mandala design that accompanies it. A reissue of Roberto Laneri’s six-person group, Prima Materia, the package is literally illuminated beauty.

Originally released on the Ananda imprint (who, if you’re wondering who the labelheads might be, is MEV co-founder Alvin Curran and master of the monochord and the Jenny Ondioline, Giacinto Scelsi), Prima Materia is the result of composer Roberto Laneri’s studies into the transcendental study of sound as achieved by the overtone singing of the human voice. The most noticeable touchstone for such a group cannot be found in much Western music, but rather in the Tantric rituals as practiced in North India, Mongolia and Tibet, and the resulting out-of-time trances that such regions produce with their singing. As the notes attest, the discipline lies less in the physical regiment and more in the inner concentration necessary to reach such psychic states. That all six members of Prima Materia are dressed in flowing white robes, their hair and beards unshorn suggest the spiritual dedication that such work also entails. But don’t expect some hippy-dippy vibes here, as the sound is far heavier and difficult than that.

The group name itself suggests a difficulty in pinning and naming the source of such sound. As found in analytical psychology dictionaries, Prima Materia suggests a “primordial element, collective unconscious, unknown psychic substances, nocturnal sea-voyage, diminution of consciousness,” things not readily namable or understood. The six-person group strives not just for sound, but its absence as well, taking its cue from The Upanishads quote about sound and non-sound and how “non-sound is revealed only by sound.” The 30-minute main piece ebbs and rises with a guttural wave of multifarious voice that rises forth not from the lips but from the guttural depths of each person, and the two accompanying live versions from Berlin and Roma are similarly rooted.

And what a haunting, delirious sound Prima Materia unleashes with their throats! Suggesting both Tibetan and Gregorian chants, Tuvan throat singing, Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra’s The Great Learning, the overtone singing of Pandit Pran Nath as practiced by American minimalists like Terry Riley and La Monte Young, perhaps even the throaty growl of extreme black metal such as Corrupted, all coalesce here into something that defies description. Or as Laneri states in his notes: “Well, not only it’s (sic) not easy to sing it, it’s not easy to speak about it too.”

By Tad Abney

Read More

View all articles by Tad Abney

Find out more about Die Schachtel

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.