TERRY RILEY A Rainbow In Curved Air (Columbia)
I well remember how, within 30 seconds of putting on my first Neu! album, I suddenly realised where Stereolab got all their good ideas. I had a similar revelation on playing this, Terry Riley’s 1967 debut album (if you believe Wikipedia and All Music Guide, or 1969 sophomore effort if you side with the sleevenotes) released with admirable foresight on Columbia’s highbrow Masterworks imprint – suddenly Philip Glass didn’t seem so innovative anymore.
“A Rainbow In Curved Air” consists of just two side-long pieces, and it’s the opening title track that impresses the most. With its cyclic, fluttering, glistening keyboard lines and startling outbreaks of rattling percussion, there’s far too much going on here for it to be neatly filed as minimalism; it’s minimalist only in the restricted tonal palette employed. The second side, “Poppy Nogood And The Phantom Band”, is a harder sell. With its looped drones and massed, cawing flock of soprano saxophones it feels its oppressive length, a fate avoided by the title track. Nevertheless, it’s readily apparent that Philip Glass learned a lot here as well.
A self-confessed Scorpio pressing, the currently available vinyl incarnation of “A Rainbow In Curved Air” actually sounds surprisingly good, rounding out an interesting package of admittedly limited appeal.