I've been digging Atlantis Nath by Terry Riley for some time now. It's been getting a lot of ear time at HurdAudio as it feeds into a sonic addiction of some sort. The affections for this one seem to grow exponentially with repeated listenings.
Atlantis Nath is many things. It's a song cycle. It's a quirky, eclectic concept album. It's an audio tour of the many sides of Terry Riley's compositional output over the decades. It covers a lot of contrasting ground over a cohesive experience.
This work is beautifully recorded, mixed and mastered by Luc Martinez (who contributes some concrete compositions of his own that glue a conceptual structure between songs). Terry Riley's singing voice normally takes some warming up to but the careful sculpting of overdubbed vocals is surprisingly appealing here. The droning sound design of "Crucifixion Voices" and "Gha Ten in Darbari" are particularly warm and timbrally rich.
At the center of Atlantis Nath one finds the excellent solo piano composition "Ascencion" performed by Riley himself. The opening layers of vocals, midi arrangements and musique concrete seem to peel away to reveal this unaccompanied gem as Riley's harmonic, melodic and arranging ability is most clearly stated in this track. This is the sound that stays in my ears the longest as it gets folded away through the second half of the program.
The midi arrangements on "Derveshum Carnivalis" and "Even Your Beloved Wife" are actually fairly repellent and they make me cringe. But they also pack a lot of charm. There's something beautiful that cuts through the tainted immediacy of the texture that draws me in every time and I find that this is a music that inspires a love - warts and all - with the near-hippie idealism that permeates the expression.
"The Crucifixion of My Humble Self" concludes this disc by returning to the vocal drones that launched Atlantis Nath and adds a spoken text by Adolf Woelfil read by John Deaderick. This forms an intense symmetry to a song cycle that wanders through so many moods and territories. One might not always be up for the full journey, but it is hard to resist the ride.