— Dan on March 9, 2010 at 2:46 am

Glenn Branca
Lesson No. 1

Out of Print (from us)

After playing in the seminal and influential no wave rock outfits the Theoretical Girls and the Static, Glenn Branca made his first strides towards the more ambitious guitar symphonies he’d become famous for with Lesson No. 1. Written in 1979 around the same time as many of the pieces that would later make up the Ascension, Lesson No. 1 For Electric Guitar is perhaps his most accessible piece of the period. Clocking in at just over 8 minutes, it is a concise yet extended statement of forward motion. Guitar motives repeat in a manner recalling the minimalism of Philip Glass, but like Glass, there is a maximilist approach to sonic density and bombast, a neverending cresendo. Upon it’s initial release as the first record on the influential 99 Records(Liquid Liquid, ESG) Lesson No. 1 was paired with Dissonance, a more daring experiment that explodes sonic dissonance with rock and roll energy. Both tracks were recorded with small bands, Anthony Coleman’s keyboards adding a beautifully melodic pattern to Lesson No. 1 and Stephan Wischerth showing the same power he did playing drums on the Ascension.

Two years later, as Branca was beginning to expand his ideas with his more ambitous symphonies, he was commisioned to write a piece for choreographer Twyler Tharp that would neatly cover many of the styles he’s worked with in the past, and would work in the future. Music for Bad Smells, composed as a dance piece, is comprised of many different sections that range from some of his most freaked-out rock guitar histronics to his most subtle textural ambience, from dissonant discordant funk to driving sonic aggression. In just over 16 minutes, one can hear every style of guitar playing composers and bands would explore for the next 20 years. This is, of course, handled magnificently by the line-up of the Glenn Branca Ensemble, which for this piece is the entire Ascension band, including Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and the addition of Lee’s Sonic counterpart, Thurston Moore.

This CD marks the first time Lesson No. 1 and Dissonace has been released domestically on CD. Music From Bad Smells was previously available on a Giorno Poetry Systems compilation which has since gone out of print. All three tracks have been remastered by Weasel Walter of the Flying Luttanbachers, New York City guitar maestro Alan Licht lends some thoughts for the liner notes. In addition to this, it features a quicktime video of Branca’s Symphony No. 5 as a sign of where he was heading and because, hey, it’s damn cool.

Glenn Branca – Lesson No. 1 (excerpt)


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