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C.D. Reviews

Outside the Dream Syndicate compact disc
Table of the Elements Li

Table of the Elements issue of Outside the Dream Syndicate During the 1960s, Tony Conrad was a member of La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music, a.k.a. The Dream Syndicate, a performance group dedicated to the creation and exploration of drone music and the just intonation system. (The group's efforts strongly influenced Velvet Underground, whose bassist/violist, John Cale, was also a Dream Syndicate member). As explained in the C.D. liner notes, Conrad's association with Young continued sporadically through the early 1970s, when Young's performances in Germany brought Conrad in contact with the experimental rock group Faust. This recording is the result of that meeting.

Outside the Dream Syndicate consists of three lengthy tracks, each over twenty minutes long. On the first, "From the Side of Man and Womankind," Conrad's violin slowly builds a layer of drones over a bass/ drums rhythm section that is Kraftwerkian in its simplicity. The second track, "From the Side of the Machine," is more dynamic and alluring than the first, as the drums and bass have (somewhat) freer rein, the violins sound less tremulous, synthesizers become rather prominent, and the rhythm gradually increases in tempo. The final track, "From the Side of Woman and Mankind," is extremely similar to the first track (perhaps it is an outtake or unused portion thereof) and was discovered just prior to the C.D. remix of the original recordings.

Your own feelings about this compact disc will probably correspond directly to your tolerance for very repetitive, slowly evolving music. There aren't any chord changes here, other than the constant harmonic permutations of Conrad's violin. The rhythm of the first and third tracks goes on unchanged for the duration of both, and even the second track is still pretty controlled. But those who aren't bothered by this will find Outside the Dream Syndicate to be a very rewarding listening experience. The music changes so subtly that it becomes all the more intriguing when a variation does occur. Very, very meditative.

(This is the third ["Lithium"] in the Table of the Elements series, whose releases include a series of seven-inch records featuring experimental guitar music by Jim O'Rourke, K. K. Null, Henry Kaiser, and others).