Craig Leon – One Hundred Steps (1981)

craigleon

In the 1970s — the decade during which he’d produced groundbreaking debut records by Suicide, the Ramones, Richard Hell, and Blondie — Craig Leon went to see an exhibit of ancient art made by a tribe from Mali, the Dogon. Although their people have lived in relative seclusion for centuries, their ancestors developed an impressively complex system of astronomy. The Dogon worship amphibious, extraterrestrial creatures called Nommos, who are believed to have travelled to earth from the distant star Sirius B. All of which might sound a little out there—until you learn that in the 20th century, modern astronomers were astonished to find how accurate the Dogon’s ancient calculations were; somehow, centuries before telescopes, their ancestors had identified stars that were invisible to the naked eye. Leon was as taken with this mystery as he was with his growing collection of synthesizers. He decided to make an album of what he imagined would be playing “on the Nommos’s Walkman” (“They would have had to listen to something on an interplanetary flight… otherwise it would have been very boring”) and, in a cosmic nod to Harry Smith, give it the playful title Anthology of Interplanetary Folk. The resulting collection is a masterpiece of early electronic music—a precursor to later explorations in industrial music, new age, and ambient techno—but up until now, it’s never been heard exactly how Leon intended. Leon composed the Anthology as two “mirror image” parts: The driving and metallic Nommos came out on John Fahey’s Takoma label as a standalone LP in 1981, and its sequel, the softer and more subdued Visiting came out a year later. In the decades it’s been out of print, Nommos in particular has been bootlegged repeatedly, and late last year the California label Superior Viaduct put out a reissue of Nommos against Leon’s wishes. “I had always envisioned a different version of the album being the definitive version,” Leon said, and so the 2013 release spurred him into taking control of the record’s legacy. This new authorized reissue, put out with care by the Brooklyn label RVNG, finally presents Leon’s otherworldly achievement exactly as he wanted it to be heard, with Nommos and Visiting side by side for the first time. [Source]

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