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There was a time, not far outside of recent memory, when one of musical Minimalism’s great voices had disappeared into the ether, leaving only two remarkable, but largely unobtainable, albums behind - hints toward what had been. When Charlemagne Palestine reentered the world of music during the 1990’s, following roughly two decades of silence, he was possessed by a remarkable fire - performing and recording widely, seemingly making up for lost time. The body of work which has grown in the ensuing years is of startling breadth and cohesiveness, pushing ever forward into the unknown, but for many, his earlier, formative efforts have remained out of reach. The last year or so has taken remarkable strides toward rectifying this. First came the reissue of his seminal album Strumming Music, and then, only a short while after, came Alga Marghen’s astounding issue of archival recordings from 1974 - Arpeggiated Bösendorfer + Falsetto Voice, which shortly predate and illuminate his groundbreaking album, Four Manifestations On Six Elements. Now the imprint returns with archival recordings, stretching across a 3 CD box set. A sprawling work called Lower Depths, which Palestine began work on in 1977.
Lower Depths is among the most important historical works to emerge within Palestine’s canon, in part because its singularity and length, but equally because it took form during a crucial period in his creative generation, one grossly underrepresented within his body of recordings. While the composer wrote and performed extensively across the 1970’s, his only two albums, proceeding his return in 1997, were both released in 1974. Capturing an understanding of his activities between those dates has always been difficult. Lower Depths represents a startling truth. He was at the height of his powers, shortly before moving to Europe and leaving music behind. Lower Depths extends from Palestine’s larger efforts toward to profound potential of constraint, his technique of strumming the piano - repeating a succession of notes to generate overtone harmonics, but in many ways stands apart. Much of the composers work focuses on the middle and higher end of the keyboard - the generation of shimmering ambiences and clear rhythm. Lower Depths is an all together different extreme. During the late 70’s Palestine was in possession of a Bösendorfer which stretched octaves below any other piano’s range. It in this realm which the work grows from and largely dwells. A deep, thunderous, rumbling world - as immersive and rippling as anything in the composer’s body of work, but entirely different in mood and tone.
Lower Depths is a missing piece of the puzzle. An encounter with one of the century’s most important composers at the height of his powers, moments before he disappeared. A lost, and profoundly important work within the history of musical Minimalism, while stretching and expanding what we understand and expect of an already singular voice. Palestine as few have heard him, and as everyone should. Yet another incredible effort by Alga Marghen. A box set of stunning meaning and importance. This is an event not to be missed on any count.