I think one of the most difficult changes to deal with in “the digital age” is a certain lack of chronology. Besides having even more advanced capabilities to procure obscure records from the dregs of the earth, would-be archivists are now able to release them and preserve those recordings for future generations. In fact, a good portion of our independent music culture is essentially regurgitated from the past. It’s strange to think that this field of alleged progressivism is so decidedly stooped in strange reissues or overwhelmingly influenced by ’60s rock and pop, but there you have it.
Enter the Decibel’s Fiat Lux box set, released on the archival, experimental and Israeli record label, Mio. Here is maybe the 5th or 6th record this year that has been rescued from obscurity due to the infamous Nurse With Wound list. For the unfamiliar, the Nurse With Wound list essentially defines the parameters of avant-snobbery in the late 20th and early 21st century. So, here is a three CD collection that goes back in time, ultimately showing listeners that they were wrong in thinking there was any specific progression in musical lineage. The band’s Mexican origins shows this period in the ’70s to hold a certain experimental music zeitgeist, something many, many, many bands were involved in, rather than a simple lineage of prog rockers from the U.K.
The first album of the set, essentially the “legendary” record that one would pay admission for, is, anyway, enjoyable. Sounding an awful lot like King Crimson’s Larks Tongue in Aspic with maybe a little less speaker-splintering rock and a little more avant-wank. El Poeta Del Ruido plus… is also accompanied by a certain splattered melancholy that seems to be slightly different from any number of comparisons that could be made. The record resides in a slightly surreal, yet restrained mind state, the work of a sweetly musical aesthetic rather than the conceptual art leaning that seems to be inferred in the reissue.
The following two albums, a collection of recordings from the ’90s entitled Futurna Virilis plus… and a compilation of live work ranging from the ’70s to the ’00s, appropriately titled In Concert plus, are, while not the main attraction of this release, certainly not disappointing. On Futurna, the band pushes itself into farther, more intense dissonances, showing its commitment to the experimental, noisier facet of their work more than the progressive rock slant that seems to crop of on El Poeta. It’s a little less clear what is occurring on Futurna, as a later release, the work of a band that grew out of its cultural context into something of its own, the music here is bizarre, actually reaching some of the set surreal goals that seem to be Decibel’s predominant intention.
The somehow unsettling New Age synthesizers, sped-up and slowed-down voices and outstanding percussion performances by several of the band members, that all factor into the generally spacey jamming that defines Futurna is prominent on the final disc of the set, as well. Perhaps the least essential of the three discs, In Concert shows the current Decibel incarnation in a fairly safe state, playing what are more-or-less fusion-y songs somewhat divorced from their initial bizarreness. Fortunately, Mio pairs the recent recording with archival recordings from the ’70s, that predictably emanate the spirit of the first record, if not with a little more unruliness. These recordings are decidedly more in a free jazz territory, less emphasis, again, on the progressive rock elements.
Most likely people will consider hearing the Decibel box set as a way of fulfilling an obligation to obscure, strange music. In this regard, the set is slightly disappointing. It is not as revelatory or challenging as some of the other NWW List reissues from this year, most notably the Arbete Och Fritid album on the MNW record label. Yet, Fiat Lux is an enjoyable collection of music, it is playful, reaching and attempting to achieve a greater artistic goal than it ultimately ever does. For someone like me, that’s more than enough.
Forced Exposure: http://www.forcedexposure.com/