Arrington de Dionyso’s Dionysian Chaos

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Arrington de Dionyso
  • Arrington de Dionyso
I can’t say I’ve ever actually enjoyed the music of Arrington de Dionyso, the man behind weirdo garage-roots band Old Time Relijun. But I'll confess to a grudging admiration for his devotion to his work and his commitment to exploration, particularly in his most recent output.

I couldn’t help but wince as I read some of the things he told Daniel Spicer in the July issue of the Wire; he claims to have discovered throat singing when he just five years old, and about his oeuvre he says, “I play ecstatic, trance-oriented energy music that also has the capacity to be self-reflective and psychologically insightful.” On last year’s solo album I See Beyond the Black Sun (K) he combines his take on throat singing with bulky bass clarinet playing, clearly trying to tap into some kind of hypnotic practice. But it’s an ugly album with the same kind of studied primitivism as Old Time Relijun—the only thing truly compelling about it is how thoroughly he seems to immerse himself in the extended sounds he produces. It’s almost contagious.

I suppose de Dionyso considers the music he makes with his free-jazz quartet the Naked Future—where he sticks exclusively to bass clarinet—pretty ecstatic as well. But on the recent Gigantomachia, released by the resurrected ESP-Disk label, his primitivism—not to mention the group's hackneyed technique and jarring incoherence—gets in the way of anything transcendent. The band repeatedly stops dead in the middle of a group improvisation, pausing for several seconds at a time as if to recollect itself, and then jumps back in—it sounds like they set out prescribed track lengths and then worked at filling them, even when they lost the musical thread.

De Dionyso’s next solo album, due November 3 on K Records, is called Malaikat Dan Singa, and on every tune he sings in Indonesian over raucous post-Birthday Party backing tracks—a din sometimes created with guitars, sometimes with throat singing and screaming bass clarinet. He’s obviously tuned in to some far-off signal nobody else can pick up, and that’s probably why I feel driven to keep tabs on his circuitous development, even though nothing he’s done has really grabbed me so far. De Dionyso headlines a free show with Pillars & Tongues and My Name Is Nobody at the Empty Bottle on Monday night.

photo: Lucinda Roanoke

Today’s playlist:

Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton, At les Instants Chavirés (Psi)
Banda Glória, Bánda Glória Convida Cristina Buarque (Scubidu)
Patterson Hood, Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs) (Ruth St.)
Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (Hear Music)
Blitzen Trapper, Black River Killer (Sub Pop)

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