[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
The 1970s were guilty of many things. Flares, roller disco, The Bay City Rollers, Ziggy… the list could go on forever. This album is not one of those cringe-worthy memories I have of the decade. In fact, what’s going on with these five pieces could have been done recently, they’re that contemporary. No, this would not have been on sale in the music store in the mall (remember those?), you’d have not found “1976 -1977” at all because it was never released. The good people at Dais along with Mr. First, rescued these compositions from utter obscurity. Yes, that’s correct, even the artist who did this hadn’t planned on resuscitation. Fortunately, even though this study of modular experimentation had been mothballed, we’re now given a chance to take it all in.
And there is much to imbibe on here, don’t let these abrasive nature of some of this throw you off. Take your time and drift, where one winds up by the end of this album is a very unusual place. The laws of gravity no longer apply, indeed, the very fabric of reality begins to pull apart and you start to question just what exactly it is that you see before you. First doesn’t attack the ears consistently throughout the run of what is on record but he keeps the tension fairly high. It’s not a nervous sense I get out of this but I wouldn’t try falling asleep to a song like “Jumpy” anytime soon. Peaks and valleys of incredibly random, manipulated abstractions flutter about here and there with not a word to be heard.
Remember, this guy is best known for being a guitarist. Who owns a chain of restaurants which specialize in audio-only fare. You’re not seeing things, he really does peddle sound, I checked out what his modus operandi is in these places: you get your headphones on and off you go. Much like what I come away with from listening to these bizarrely sequenced compositions which according to what I read were done as a spur of the moment exercise in creativity. At the lonely outpost. A turn of phrase I just cannot agree with enough, I know all too well how this sort of technology fared once the digital revolution kicked in. I used to see equipment like what he’s using here collecting dust in storage closets in the 1980s and I’d always wonder why it had been put away.
Was humanity just not ready, or were attention spans already dwindling in the glow of all that sexy new gear with their tawdry LCD displays. One point I’d like to make about this record is that it disproves once and for all that experimental music is “just noise” because these tracks don’t meander aimlessly. Nor are they just tonal discord. David First knew precisely what he was doing when he made these creatures, I suspect he had their images in mind when he sat down and began arranging the knobs and cables to create their portraits. As with any skilled composer, your ears will be re-calibrated. I can sense mine being aligned into a much more interesting array; when all was said and done I just wonder what he thought of what he’d wrought.
I know how it hits me. Another small piece of the puzzle, one more tantalizing morsel that allows us greater understanding of just how much musical range was being carved out by master craftsmen such as this.
David First – Electronic Works 1976 – 1977