David First – Same Animal, Different Cages Vol. 2: Solomonos for Analog Synthesizer


[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

First puts down his guitar, selects six patches and sets about dissecting them down to their molecular basis. That’s the short version of what he’s got going on here, to understand more fully what the goal is with this record will require a few more words.

Put simply, this is destructive synthesis on a grandiose scale; ever ground your teeth hard enough for your jaw to ache the next day? When this appeared I figured it would be an easier task to summarize what he’d done as synthesizers are more familiar instruments to me but I had no idea they could be made to do what he’s accomplished. He even gives you the names of the sounds he’ll be mauling as the titles for each track as though he’s encouraging you to have a go at this yourself. So I did. Armed with my Kurzweil K2600 I attempted to play not only in the same key but also keep up with the maniacal changes in time and tone he moves through… I had my own signal going in one earphone and his going into the other.

It may take some time to get my nerve back, something which is a key feature to this second volume of audio misanthropy he’s dished out. You will become disorientated easily as you play this release, even on my inaugural run I got lost several times and had to re-start. There’s such a fine resolution to what he’s written that you’ll swear delicate fingers were moving back and forth across your scalp with increasing velocity. The thing is, though, those fingers don’t just stay on the surface; as the songs develop they begin to sink into your skull, passing through the blood/brain barrier until they are manipulating specific regions of the brain. No, there’s nothing sinister going on here, I assure you. The exploratory nature of this work brings with it an explosive set of dynamics, it has to be said.

There isn’t anything peaceful or solemn about what’s been done here.

From one arena of extremities to another your senses will be hurtled along through; if you wanted to say that ‘Solomonos for Analog Synthesizer’ was the concluding set of experiments first begun by David back in the 70s you’ll have to keep waiting. These bristle with hostility and are so confrontational they’ll stop a person dead in their tracks because their grey matter cannot process what is going on quickly enough to avoid capsizing. If you wanted to make the connection between this and his Casio Quartet you would come up short again. These compositions are not part of a continual arc, they repeatedly descend into complete chaos on several occasions and take excessive delight in confounding whatever audience happen to be listening. The one constant is change, from moment to moment and microtone to microtone I found an unapologetically volatile landscape.

It’s the sort of place you take one step in and then look down to find only the outline of your footprint as everything else has been dissolved and what’s more this condition is spreading.

Decimating layer upon decimating layer of both looped and real-time manipulations are further bent out of the natural order through what I can only imagine were an array of hand-made filters and custom effects. Two things are certain: this guy not only thinks outside the box, you couldn’t get him to play by the book no matter what prize was dangled in front of him. Speaking of rewards, the only ones I got for my previously mentioned efforts were a couple of brief moments where everything was in tune and then vanished in a matter of moments.

David First Same Animal, Different Cages Vol. 2: Solomonos for Analog Synthesizer
Fabrica, fabrec040.2
LP/Digital 2016

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