Album Remarks & Appraisals:
This is a first-time-on-CD reissue of 1984's beautifully recorded, successful vinyl release. Lentz's unusual musical structures are built via complex additive and subtractive processes. This is wildly vibrant, entrancing, colorful music scored for the unusual grouping of wineglasses, voices and multiple keyboards.
Personnel: Daniel Lentz (keyboards, glass); Arlene Dunlap, Brad Ellis, David Kuehn (keyboards, glass); Susan James, Jessica Lowe (glass).
Audio Mixer: Daniel Protheroe.
Liner Note Author: Daniel Lentz.
Recording information: Santa Barbara Sound (02/1984).
Author: John A. Schaefer.
Photographer: Philip Baird.
On the Leopard Altar is an interesting recording that finds the composer perched midway between his earlier, energetically minimalist style and the increasingly new age-y tendencies of his later work. The sprightly "Is It Love" that opens the album, while immediately reminiscent of Philip Glass circa Einstein on the Beach, has its own quirky charms. The chorus is never very many steps away from a blatant pop sound but, when set over the percolating electric keyboards, an oddly off-kilter sound world is established that the listener cannot help but enjoy. "Lascaux" (which was later released on disc as part of Missa Umbrarum on New Albion) is a very successful foray into one of Lentz' central preoccupations: the range of potential sounds to be generated by rubbed or struck wine glasses. The wonderfully dense harmonics achieved here stand perfectly well on their own without the need for any superfluous embellishment. The title track is a very lovely song, softly cooed by Jessica Lowe with a text using varied phonemes over a correspondingly varied keyboard line. It comes this close to being overly precious but manages to stay on the "right" side of that line. "Wolf Is Dead." returns listeners to a Glass-ian minimalism which, while having a superficial attractiveness, has come to sound rote and not particularly inspired. Additionally, a sense of queasiness may occur if the listener opts to follow the rather insipid lyrics. On the Leopard Altar closes with a gentle lullaby, "Requiem," guaranteed not to offend. Though still worth hearing, it appeared that Lentz' best work was already, unfortunately, behind him at the time of this recording. ~ Brian Olewnick