The first vinyl release of Charlemagne Palestine‘s Godbear, a 1987 solo piano recording originally scheduled to sit alongside Sonic Youth and Swans in the catalogue of Glenn Branca‘s Neutral Records but eventually released on CD by the Dutch Barooni label in 1998. Although Palestine has worked in an enormous variety of media, his long form performances for solo piano are perhaps his most acclaimed works. Palestine immersed himself in the study of overtones throughout the 1960s, working first with carillons and then with electronic synthesis, searching for the ‘golden sound’. Beginning in the early 1970s he continued his exploration of the complexities hidden within seemingly simple tones and intervals on the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand Piano, the ‘Rolls Royce’ of pianos. With the piano’s sustain pedal constantly depressed, Palestine hammers out rapidly repeated notes, allowing a complex cloud of overtones to rise above the percussive texture of the struck keys. Initially working with simple intervals such as octaves and fifths, Palestine gradually expanded the harmonic range of his piano performances over the years, while still retaining their ecstatically single-minded nature. Revisiting his signature piano style in 1987 after several years focusing on visual art, Godbear presents three distinct variations that demonstrate the development of his piano music after the classic recordings of the early 1970s.
Occupying the entire first side, ‘The Lower Depths’ stages a slow descent from the piano’s mid-range to the Bösendorfer’s cavernous additional low octave, building into a thundering swarm of booming overtones. Breaking entirely with the stereotype of clinical minimalism, Palestine’s journey to the depths embraces passages of darkly romantic melody before slowly ascending to its starting point. The version of ‘Strumming Music’ performed here condenses the developmental arc of the piece into eleven minutes, fanning out from a single octave to a complex harmonic wash that calls to mind Palestine’s enthusiasm for Debussy and Ravel. ‘Timbral Assault’ is like an evil twin of ‘Strumming Music,’ transforming its insistency and harmonic complexity into aggressive intensity and creeping dissonance, foreshadowing Palestine’s later collaborations with Christoph Heemann. A classic release, and one that, because of the variety of approaches surveyed within, serves as an ideal introduction to Palestine’s ecstatic and mysterious sound world” –Francis Plagne.
Remastered and cut by Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin. Presented in a deluxe gatefold sleeve designed by Stephen O’Malley.