Personnel: Rob Mazurek (cornet, synthesizer); Emmett Kelly (guitar); Guilherme Granado (synthesizer, electronics, sampler).
Alien Flower Sutra is a collaborative avant-song cycle between composer and multi-instrumentalist Rob Mazurek and the Cairo Gang's guitarist and vocalist Emmett Kelly. The theme is inextricably linked to Mazurek's long-running multi-disciplinary obsession with science, biotechnology, interplanetary exploration, and evolution -- themes he'd pursued on projects with Exploding Star Orchestra, Pulsar Quartet, Chicago Underground Duo, and Black Cube SP. Kelly's contribution makes it unique, almost a standalone project. Over 2013 and 2014, Mazurek wrote this material at home, then performed it in Chicago and Sao Paulo, inviting participation and input from other musicians. When he met Kelly, they began a conversation about the proposed narrative. The guitarist was so moved he wrote lyrics to accompany melodies within it. Kelly's voice, though multivalently employed, is empathic and vulnerable throughout; he sings in the first person. His protagonist depicts situations that shed light on the set's central ontological question: How does a cybernetic organism reconcile his logic-controlled present -- with the indelible ghost traces of mercurial humanity (emotions and impressionistic shadows of consciousness) that remain within?
"Back to the Ocean, Back to the Sea" is a melodic, cathartic account of apocalypse. Strummed, distorted guitar, washed-out soundscapes, and restrained noise accompany Kelly's delivery, which bridges the poles of trauma with equanimity. His vocal is tender, accompanied by skewed piano and sonic glitches in a mix that almost breathes. "Android Love Cry," an instrumental created from modulated synth, noise, and fragmented ambience, uses Thomas Rohrer's dissonant rabeca to create a chamber music feel. "Blackout," based on a single-chord drone, addresses enlightenment achieved not by having a choice, but by willful surrender to the inevitable. "Bright Nights Havoc" is powerful skronk with bleating cornet, waves of noise, and electronic energy unleashed. "I Untie My Wrists" and "Remember Nothing" are gorgeous, strange, beautiful melodies that recall David Sylvian in their spiritual resonance. Kelly's protagonist is not the man who fell to earth, but the being who rose from it, his past and present exploring possibilities and complications in a hard-wired future. "Embryo Genesis" is an instrumental that sounds like cartoon-and-newsreel-soundtrack music spliced together and poured onto electronic treatments. "We Are One" is an avant-choral anthem. The rebelliousness of humanity and the indefatigable coupled with the cyber-logic consciousness of the present, birth a new being. The 21-minute "Overture Towards the Beginning of the End of Time" uses a driving, modulated synth to emulate a church organ and harmonium simultaneously (recalling Terry Riley's earliest tape loops and drones), with noise and distortion added to create a nearly hummable modal harmony. This closer is actually an introduction to the continuously unfolding saga of creative evolutionary history as envisioned by Mazurek and Kelly. Fans of the former's Sweet and Vicious Like Frankenstein, The Space Between, Alternate Moon Cycles, and Vortice of the Faun will be drawn in. But Alien Flower Sutra is a stunning, standalone song cycle brimming with poetic, musical, and philosophical imagination, and collective discovery. ~ Thom Jurek