Craig Leon is a respected producer of Classical music. Before taking that path, his career began over four decades ago, crafting releases by the cream of NYC`s Punk / New Wave scene. Working on the debut recordings of Blondie, Richard Hell, The Ramones, and Suicide. Between 1981 and 1982, Leon and his partner, Cassell Webb, created two LPs, utilizing then state-of-the-art electronics (Arp, Linn, Oberhiem, and Roland), inspired by the teachings of Mali’s Dogon people. A tribe who believe that Human civilization is built on knowledge acquired from an alien race, the Nommos. These extra-terrestrials having arrived thousands of years ago, from Sirius B. The music contained on Leon`s albums was an imagining of the Nommos` ceremonies and songs. A metallic, and clanging, but mediative mix of New Age and Motorik. Unsurprisingly, given their otherworldly nature, pieces, like Donkeys Bearing Cups, found their way into the playlists of Italian DJs, Daniele Baldelli and Bepe Lola, who were looking for material for their own Afro / Cosmic rituals.
These two albums, Nommos and Visiting, were collected by RVNG Intl., back in 2014, as Anthology Of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol.1. On May 10th RVNG released Leon and Webb`s Anthology Of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 2.
The new LP expands on the Dogon`s beliefs and tracks their transmission through the modern world. Employing William Sterling Maxwell`s 1897 tract, The Canon, as a guide. In this esoteric work, the Scottish historian maps the movement of arcane wisdom across cultures. Tracing it through geometry and numerology. Temple architecture and pagan nomenclature. According to Maxwell, The Canon is a cosmic law that rules all art. This is an obscure book, you wouldn’t happen upon it by chance, and make no mistake, these ideas are not viewed as whimsey by Leon. His obsession with our place in the Universe is reflected by his recent transition into visual productions, with titles such as Journey To The Moon and Quest Beyond The Stars.
When it was conceived in the late 70s, the original plan for Nommos was for it to be orchestral – but budgets wouldn’t stretch that far. Over the years since the initial RVNG reissue Leon has been performing his Dogon-inspired compositions, in this form, with ensembles around the globe (you can catch the next one on the 24th of this month at the Ambient Church event, in Pasadena). So it`s not so much of a surprise that Anthology Of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 2 has a lot more overtly Classical overtones than its predecessor. It opens with the plainsong of a celestial choir, and closes with a muted fanfare. Standing Crosswise In The Square does recall Vol. 1. Sounding like a percussive chase across a savannah at sunrise. Its bottom end a buzzing tubular vibration. Set somewhere between the angular urban jungle of Leonard Bernstein`s A West Side Story and Jerry Goldsmith’s serial score for Planet Of The Apes. The Respondent In Dispute is a darker rattle. An obsidian, Industrial, tribal dance. But from thereon in the record hits a pastoral calm. As much Beethoven as Kosmische, Cluster or Roedelius. On The Twenty Second Step As Well As The Tenth these subliminal strings slip into Dream Syndicate drone. On The Gates Made Plain the shimmer gives way to a resurgence of gentle hand drum ripples. Conjuring a replicant rainforest. Imagine Vangelis` soundtrack if Blade Runner were moved to a location lush and green, instead Los Angles, 2019, full of neon and steam.
You can order a copy of Craig Leon`s Anthology Of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 2 directly from RVNG Intl.