It might seem shocking to you that it’s taken me this long to experience the sheer orgiastic galactism of Tarotplane’s debut LP First, but I assure you that I’ve not been held hostage or taken monastic vows or died. I’m actually still alive, still healthily skeptical of clergy, and still rockin’ in the free world. If it was up to me, in fact, I’d have artists like Tarotplane mainlined directly into my cerebral cortex in order to transcend day-to-day interaction and just exist on this astral trip, man, and there wouldn’t be anything anybody could do about it. Hey, that douchebag pharmaceutical CEO just bought that Wu-Tang album; maybe I’ll make like he intends to do and commission my own Tarotplane album, just for myself and nobody else – it will be a mysterious gap in the discography! (*dismissive wanking motion*)
Where was I? I was about to slather PJ Dorsey of Baltimore, Maryland, USA, with effusive praise for his debut album, and Belgium’s Aguirre Records for recoginizing and putting out this fabulous vinyl slab. (Also, Belgium is like one of my favorite countries, so they’ve got that going for them.) Seriously, I’m a total sucker for 1970s-style ambient krautrock, and Dorsey has got the style down, so down that it’s hard to separate First from other likeminded albums of the decade. There are references to Eno and Cluster, Popol Vuh and Deuter, but the entire recording exists on its own in some sort alternate decade where modular synthesizers and sampling took a few more years to get going. Again, if the result of that wait was First, I’m OK with it.
Clearly you’re in for otherworldly synthesizer excursions if you’re spinning this, and fortunately – and this is my guarantee, as an author and a music critic – you will be satisfied in your search. First begins strong and doesn’t let up, as each track bleeds into the next for an experience uninterrupted and unrelenting. Aguirre’s promo copy refers to it as a sort of “mixtape,” and while there’s a bit of false equivalence in that statement, it’s not a crazy descriptor if you decide to take in this album as a continuous whole. But that’s not all you’ll get – Dorsey includes guitar in some of the tracks, and a few veer quite far from an ambient path. Take “Excursion 5” for example – is that Michael Rother that shows up for a little studio sesh? Sure sounds like it. Samples play a key role in other places, such as on the standout “Excursion 8,” where a female voice intones, “Shatter the sentence,” over and over before delving into other sci-fi paranoia. And the record ends with two psychedelic rock tracks that would leave early Pink Floyd absolutely drooling with envy.
It’s apparent that PJ Dorsey labored over First with incredible detail, and that’s borne out over his Tarotplane debut. From the recording and editing techniques to the samples and also live musicianship, he’s constructed both a loving monument to his predecessors and a standout document of his own, an original piece that bridges stylistic gaps and blazes new paths. And if you’ve been “taking my word for it” up until now, please do so again – listen to this through a good pair of headphones. You won’t know the detail and texture that you’re missing if you don’t.
RIYL: Popol Vuh, Harmonia, Brian Eno, Cluster