Riley is one of the founders of Minimalism. His music tends to be for soloist (usually himself) playing a barrage of electronic instruments. The works on this disc hail from the mid-seventies, when Riley began to dabble with Eastern modalities, mostly Indian ragas that strive for swara, a transcendental state reached through perfect pitch. Along the way, notes will clash and (to our ears) sound like performance mistakes. These are the product of Riley's overlapping Eastern modalities with Western modalities, often in the same measure. Riley travels farther afield in his music than other Minimalists do, but it's worth the journey. --Paul Cook
This is probably the best example of minimalism meets just-intonation you'll ever find. AND It's probably the one album that seems most characteristically "Riley" of his entire ouevre-In C is essential, Requiem for Adam/Salome are both superb, and Atlantis Nath is probably the most varied offering.
Shri Camel is a good start to what Riley's work sounds like: all the issues (the role of improvisation in the process of performance, the concreteness of the musical experience, and the inevitable what is music?) in his work and all the influences (raga, minimalism, Baroque chamber music, and even ragtime and bop) are all perfectly manifested here. While it might be a fun academic exercise to try to determine his best work, or at least his most influential (that would have to be In C) they're all mostly very very good.
When I want to hear Riley on the keyboard, or Riley in general, I usually skip Rainbow and Persian Surgery Dervishes and go straight to this one. That's not to say those are inferior works in my estimation...they are both spectacular--the live dubbing of Dervishes is part of its charm...but its just a matter of what appeals to you. One reviewer said they felt the presence of God in it, another called it sublime...I can't really elaborate but only to agree. I always imagine an endless network of neurons firing off inside the human brain--a process both mechanical and organic at once, reflecting both the 'magic' of consciousness and a deterministic fatalism.
If thats New Age, well so be it.
It's intricate, full of dense texture but at the same time its banal and simple, abstract and concrete, so many things at once--and ultimately just a guy noodling around prodigiously on 2 modified synthesizers. The spiritual quality alluded to in another review is no doubt reinforced by the Bach-on-pipe organ meets raga meets trance sound and structure of it. It can accommodate really attentive, focused listening but it is just as compelling as ambient sound or a hypnotic drone you can almost physically feel inside your head. Shri Camel uncannily adapts to your level of consciousness of it, if that makes any sense at all.
Persian Surgery Dervishes follows in the exact same trance-like vein and is also wonderful...it is longer and more 'cosmic' in its pace: meaning a listener who might get frustrated with 45 minutes of what may sound like much the same here might not want to go for that big a helping. I do encourage anybody interested in this to go and p/u that one too. Persian Surgery Dervishes is sort of an extended exploration of the same sonic territory.
Rainbow is great as well, although I like Poppy Nogood even more. Its more sonically diverse (rainbow is more frenetic) and probably a good initial step into the Riley organ stuff. It was the first Riley I purchased after In C and it only whet my appetite for more.