llusion Of Safety - "Too Late To Exist" (Bridges Intact)
Since the mid-1980s, Illusion of Safety mastermind Dan Burke has produced a steady stream of difficult music, channeling a minimalist and industrial sensibility through the often perplexing notions of phenomenology, culture and psychoacoustics. While earlier albums like Probe and In 70 Countries exploited the use of experimental sound collage, spoken samples — often of torture victims — and unstable noise, Bridges Intact sees the project venturing into less psychologically pummeling territory. The album plays out like a more languid, smoothed-out version of the industrial powerhouses that were earlier albums — not so much Probe, but Violence and Geography and the aforementioned In 70 Countries for sure.
Bridges Intact sees appearances by Ben Vida and long time collaborator Thymme Jones, who make their presence felt immediately on the first track, "Zagreb," a sinister open-room improv piece consisting of minor key piano, soft focus drones, and down-tuned string scrawl. The unhurried pacing and the selective use of instrumentation during the opening seven minutes is reminiscent of the work of Isolde – the collaborative project between Robin Barnes and Andrew Chalk. Eventually, the second track, "Too Late to Exist," overtakes the first in a seamless transition that soon evolves into a flurry — albeit a somewhat placid flurry — of La Monte Young/Charlemagne Palestine style piano smearing, that’s as unnerving as it is evocative.
The remainder of the eight pieces that make up Bridges Intact play out as a combination of muted noise and brooding electro-acoustics. Stand outs include the auditory spelunking of "Crossing Now," an 11-minute recording of controlled feedback and restrained tactility, and "Dismal Water," a dizzying piece of sputtering electronica that would fit right at home on many progressive techno labels.
Of all the championing things that can be said of Dan Burke and his music, his proclivity for stoicism when it comes to the sounds of Illusion of Safety is easily the most preeminent. Perhaps Jim O-Rourke’s influence on him during the primordial years of the group helped steer his sound in that direction, although it’s clear that Burke – along side a revolving cast of other contributors – has faired well without him, evident in post-O’Rourke albums like In Opposition to our Acceleration and In Session that have stood well against the test of time. Time, too, will tell the fate of Bridges Intact, but as of now, it holds as another exceptional set of recordings in the Illusion of Safety repertoire.
By Adrian Dziewanski
ILLUSION OF SAFETY Bridges Intact (Waystyx) cd 21.00
Illusion Of Safety records have been slow coming in recent years, but IOS mastermind Dan Burke has been hinting at a whole slew of new material forthcoming. All of which should be very good news for all who have followed his work over the years. Since 1983, Burke has been producing an occasionally volatile, often sublime, and almost always exceptional body of work that prominently figures into the history of industrial culture and the ensuing explorations of noise, dronemuzik, and electro-acoustic collages from the mid-'80s onward. There had long been a sense of violence and transgression in the Illusion Of Safety catalogue, yet the overt displays of psychological horrors that appeared on such albums as Historical have gradually sublimated into the more inquisitive and arguably more compelling albums such as In Opposition To Our Acceleration and here on Bridges Intact.
A room recording of piano, feedback, guitar, and electronics opens the album, as Burke presents a collaborative piece with one of the long-time contributors to Illusion Of Safety, in Thymme Jones (who fronts the idiosyncratic art-rock combo Cheer Accident). At first the piano and the guitar spiral atonal clusters around the droning feedback tones, but after a transition through a series of clattering objects, the piano swarms into a dynamic blur of Terry Riley / Charlemagne Palestine inspired minimalism. Very impressive! Electricified buzzes and tremolo flutterings scatter around another set of bleary guitar drones whose tendrils of shimmered tone and vaporous ephemerality lead to a haunted, levitating quality to the piece, as if everything were hovering around the participants in a seance. This isn't a haunting on the demonic scale, but something more sublime and peculiar. Burke shifts more towards an intense stream of mechanoid pulses, electrical whirls, pierced tones, rarified static, and heavily amplified microsonic vibrations. Here, IOS has more of the research & development experimentation that you would get from the likes of Joe Colley or John Duncan. As Burke ducks and weaves through his tangles of crossed wires, tactile crunches, and short-circuited electronics, the breadth of his ability to produce such an extraordinary variety of electro-acoustic expressionism becomes very evident.
It should also be noted that the Russian label Waystyx has produced some elaborate packaging with two fold-out panels with numerous die-cuts that give the folio the appearance of an old steel truss bridge. Limited and numbered to 324 copies.