There are some flexible rules around performing/recording Terry Riley’s famed minimalist composition, In C, it’s all about the group of instrumentalists sitting on the same sound, creating a groove through the exploration of 53 short musical phrases being played consecutively. The piece was debuted 50 years ago – here Adrian Utley has formed a Guitar Orchestra (John Parish of PJ Harvey fame is in there) and though there are organs too – and bass clarinet – it’s the guitars that search for the melody, that churn the groove.
Utley’s day job is creating some of the weirdly wonderful sounds in Portishead – well, actually, that’s one of his day jobs, he’s also a soundtrack composer, session player and stay-at-home dad, but anyway…here, through Portishead main man Geoff Barrow’s label he’s released his version of In C, first offered up as a live performance but now caught on disc, it clocks in over an hour.
The music slowly swirls into place, the first third is slow-building before the pace becomes slightly more frenetic in bursts – but always it rolls back toward a casual see-sawing across the guitars, the massed voice of the instrument moving, inevitably, away from anything in a classical sense and creeping up on post-rock.
There are gentle passages throughout and swells of sound where the idea all but folds in on itself – think Glenn Granca, think Mike Oldfield even. But it’s certainly far less scribbled than if a Derek Bailey-type were at the helm.
There’s something powerfully hypnotic about this recording. Music to fall back into; a clever – often bold – interpretation of one of minimal music’s centrepieces; staples.