1/  Dreamspeed                                 (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           5.45
  2/  Being and Time                             (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           7.40
  3/  Emotional Smear                            (Fier,BL,Stein,Phew)          4.46
  4/  Cloud Without Water                        (Fier,Laswell,Stein,Makino)   8.36
  5/  Time Function                              (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           5.33
  6/  A Vague Sense of Order                     (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           9.43
      (Bloody Miles Mix)                          Mixed by A.Fier & Oz Fritz
  7/  Never Come Morning                         (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           5.49
  8/  Dreamspeed                                 (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           14.22
      (Realm of the Senseless Mix)                Mixed by Bill Laswell		
  9/  A Vague Sense of Order                     (Fier,Laswell,Phew)           6.03
  10/ Smoke and Mirrors                          (????)                        3.54

  1/  The Absence of Time / Djemaa el Fna         (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          11.23
  2/  Blind Light                                 (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          11.44
  3/  Our Completion                              (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          5.59
  4/  Midnight                                    (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          11.41
  5/  The Nostalgic Ache                          (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          6.53
  6/  Clairvoyance of Self                        (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          6.44
      (Seeing Through)
  7/  Our Completion                              (Phew,Fier,Laswell)          10.39
      (Ancient Evening Mix)
  8/  Bait and Switch                             (????)                       5.35

          Disk one recorded at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York, June-October 1992
          Disc two recorded at Greenpoint Studio, September 1993 - December 1993
          Disk one engineered by Oz Fritz, Matt Stein and Bruce Calder
          Disk two engineered: Bruce Calder, Oz Fritz, Rich Costey and Gary Rindfuss
          Disk two mix translation and additional production: Bill Laswell
          Mix engineers: Robert Musso and Bruce Calder
          Assistant engineer: Layng Martine
          Produced and arranged by Anton Fier
Disc one - Anton Fier: drums, percussion, samples, loops; Bill Laswell: bass; Bootsy Collins (except 5): rhythm guitars, (pushing the) envelope filter guitar; Matt Stein: loops, samples; Phew (except 4): voice; Buckethead (1,2,7,8): young & innocent guitar, teen metal guitar; Makino Kazu (1,4,8): moaning, voice.

Disc two - Anton Fier: drums, loops, samples, effects; Bill Laswell: bass; Nicky Skopelitis: 6 & 12 string electric guitars; Knox Chandler: guitars; Aiyb Dieng: percussion; Lori Carson & Lydia Kavanagh: wordless vocals; Phew: voice.

          2003 - Tzadik (USA), TZ 7609 (2CD)


There can really only be one strong complaint lobbed against this collection. The cover art, despite the utterly enrapturing beige vapor emanating from Anton Fier's bleary eyes and blearier cigarette, desperately cries out for a sophisticated lingerie vixen reading French poetry on a chaise longue somewhere in the background. It's already torn between channeling the French new-wave and solitary meditation, and it seems unjust to deny the audience that last image before they listen to an album as seductive, perplexing, serenely droning, and effortlessly cool as anything released in the last decade.

Anton Fier, one of the more underrated drummers of the New York jazz/rock scene, has had a remarkable career. He was the drummer for The Feelies, The Lounge Lizards, and Pere Ubu, as well as a session musician for everyone from Jeff Buckley to Yoko Ono. In addition, he found the time to found one of the classic "almost-classic" non-bands of the 80s and 90s, The Golden Palominos. The two-disc Dreamspeed/Blind Light (1992-1994) compiles his two alluring, eternally out-of-print solo albums recorded in the midst of one of the Palominos' most fertile period.

1992's Dreamspeed would probably be entertaining enough if the line-up just stood there, staring at the walls: It features the usual Fier cohorts (Bill Laswell, Matt Stein), and adds Parliament/Funkadelic's Bootsy Collins, Otomo Yoshihide collaborator/poet Phew, Blonde Redhead guitarist Makino Kazu, and that great freakshow Zelig, Buckethead. Evidently, when you mix these colors, you get fearsomely confident tabla-smashing, lipstick-smacking, luminously malefic libidi-vertigo. While any clumsily monolingual listeners will have difficulty parsing the whole talking-in-Japanese thing Phew employs, let's hope, for everyone's benefit, that she's discussing the finer points of stealthily stabbing Mafiosi and the prostitutes that love them. This is dark, devious music as terrifying and romantic as Blue Lines, and as bewitching and angelic as anything the Palominos ever released. Who cares if the song titles deal with the Book of Jude and a Heidegger tome? This music should be scoring British gangster movies or, at the very least, trouncing Coldplay in the contest to see what music they should play before people hook up on The Real World: San Diego.

This shouldn't dissuade anyone looking for experimentation: the title track develops Phew's impossibly arousing voice into some horrible Mengele experiment involving the voice box, a baby's tears, angry seagulls, and angrier dominatrices. Other songs pile heapings of trashcan drums and grating woodchippers on top of Zen waves of beatific placidity. The seemingly endless layering of Phew's vocal tracks start falling like a rainstorm, and pendulous guitar slithers out of silence with Doppler effects no mortal man could experience. For all the digital effects, the so-pomo-it's-not self-sampling, the looped vocals, this is immensely organic music; it basically drips all the vital liquids we hold so dear in a plangent mess all over your ears. It's drubbed, dubbed, drifting music at the pace of smoking cigarettes between midnight breakfast and sex.

1994's Blind Light stocks up on the members of Pure-era Palominos and, pretty obviously, it sounds very similar to that album. This is far from a bad thing. The masterstroke is the title track, beginning with filtered pseudo-gabba, launching into smoking jug-huffing, drunken Caribbean organs, and lumbering 12-strings. Elsewhere, the continuity of Dreamspeed is dispensed with in favor of startling periods of silence. "Midnight" gets some 60s soul momentum going, even putting some crowd cheers in, and right when the drums should be fading in, they fade out, which isn't even possible. On "Clairvoyance of Self", the song stops for a good two or three seconds any time another instrument or effect is added. Take comfort in the fact that it would be seamless without these stops, and it's seamlessly seamed with them. You win, you win. You lose, you win. Either way, you win.

As with anything unavoidably beautiful and often low-key, there are moments that you might hear over a Starbucks speaker system. My advice: get a discount card and order a mocha. Then have sex with everyone in the room on top of velvet drapery. Then go to NYC to go see Fier jumpstart his career and reassume the reins of gorgeous atmospheric music: after many years of alleged retirement, he has recently performed with John Zorn and other old friends at Tonic in December. After two hours of this, even the lung cancer ward will be smoking.


Alex Linhardt (courtesy of the Pitchfork website)


Supreme chill out music
I was checking out a lot of music on John Zorn's Tzadik label, and found NY drummer Anton Fier's particular blend of groovy rhythms, loops, spacey ambience, noisy, reverbed guitar and babbling Japanese vocals to be a refreshing change of pace. There are a lot of famous players on here (Bootsy Collins, Buckethead and Bill Laswell, to name a few) but no one gets to show off. It's all about the chilled out, ethereal and yes "hip" atmosphere. These albums will make you feel like the beat never ends, and you can groove to this anytime, anywhere - it just always seems to fit.

These two albums contain a lot of repetitive, quite minimal music... many of the songs, especially on the first album "Dreamspeed", are alternate versions of each other (which is not always indicated in the liner notes). Most tracks on both disks focus on a simple 4/4 beat with a few different muffled Laswell basslines alternating over the top. However, when this sort of mood is what you're going for, that isn't exactly a complaint.

Both disks have their strong points and weak points. "Dreamspeed" is the more rhythmic and electronic of the two. "Blind Light" is more melodic and spacious, and probably overall better due to its being less minimal and its inclusion of more frequent and interesting guitar textures (including a 12 string). Both are overlong, but just when it starts to get a little too repetitive, they pull in some unexpected element like a melodic vocal line or quirky processed percussive loop. The highlight of the entire set is probably the first track of "Blind Light", "In the Absence of Time"... the wordless vocals are the voices of angels hanging overhead in the dusty sky of some unknown mental desert...

The production on this is amazing. Anton Fier has some of the nicest, crispest sounding drums I've ever heard, Laswell's bass has a deliciously thick, almost electronic, trip hop-esque tone, and the other instruments swirl and pan through the mix as needed, in absolute atmospheric grandeur.

In conclusion, this is some fantastic and relaxing chill out music. In focused listening, it can be hard to make it through either disk of the set without some boredom, but after all, it's a thematic piece of work, and the theme is executed masterfully. Recommended.

The Pitiful Anonymous (courtesy of the Music Ontology website)