Where does Randall Taylor get off, I mean really? The audacity of that man, that thing, to take something like God’s Holy Book and make a total mockery of it. It’s inexplicable, and I can’t even imagine being able to penetrate the inspiration behind it. See, for those of you faithful who have no idea what I’m talking about, this heathen – from Austin, Texas, for that matter (SXSW is the devil’s festival!) – has co-opted a lovingly rendered audio rendition of the Bible that he found at a Goodwill (and the only reason I can imagine it was there is for evangelical purposes – nobody gives away the Bible after understanding it) and desecrated it with unholy guitar music. He may as well have drawn a pentagram on the cover and chanted “Hail Satan” over and over for all the good his project will do him in the sweet hereafter.
I kid of course. Dear Randall, I kid! Just using a device to make you readers smile and deliver some valuable information at the same time. See, the music really was recorded directly onto old spoken-word Bible tapes that Taylor found at a Goodwill, but instead of being a bad idea, I say good for him – if I’ve learned anything during my time here on Earth, it’s that recycling is a pretty good idea, and we should do it whenever we get a chance. (I’ve learned other stuff too.)
So these are beautifully packaged, yeah, but they’re also sold out (boo). Still, you get the idea, and the music pretty much connects on a level fully befitting the dubbing of said music onto old Bible tapes. Taylor’s playing is reverent, improvisational, and inspired, as if he was possessed by some sort of … spirit? These tracks, which Taylor himself calls “song sketches, sonic explorations, and live experimentations in guitar looping,” are played with intense focus, and if I wasn’t thinking of empty cathedral halls already, I’d be picturing fields in winter covered in snow. (Although I doubt that’s Amulets’ intention – it doesn’t snow in Texas.)
Empty cathedrals are pretty good places for Amulets, now that I mention it. Guitars, sometimes gently plucked, sometimes overdriven, always slow, always delayed, echo unceasingly. The tracks are sparsely titled, each one bestowed with a Roman numeral from this release’s title, “I” through “VI,” giving a sense of timelessness and age to even the presentation. In truth, the music Taylor makes as Amulets is much more reverent than the “praise and worship” music blaring through sanctuary spaces these days. (I was at a service once where that awful goddamned Evanescence song was part of the repertoire – I couldn’t belive it! The music supervisor that day should be shot… or stoned, maybe.)
One of the strengths of improvised music is that different pieces can come out of a single session, and when the pieces are placed back to back, they bleed into one another, making the entire album feel like a unified whole. This is especially true for “IV,” “V,” and “VI” as one track ends where the next begins, creating the illusion (or not, if intentional) of a song cycle. It also stabilizes the mood, and although some tracks, like the excellent “V,” feature distorted guitar, a sparely used element, they remain singular and of a piece.
So, sorry you can’t get these nifty tapes anymore, and as of this writing even I II III IV V VI’s follow-up, Know Your America (a similar recycling project) has only one copy remaining. I guess that’s what you get if you only make twenty copies of each release. Super limited! Still, though, the MP3s are there. Pop em in your iPhone, march with them around Jericho seven times, see if the wall falls. Probably won’t – Amulets is a little too subtle for that.
RIYL: If Thousands, Stars of the Lid, A Whisper in the Noise