Yesterday we reviewed an album that was performed on a healthy church organ; today we review one performed on an unhealthy church organ. Today’s entry, a Hohner organ “on the point of collapse”, is kicking out patterns and swollen notes as if making a final plea for mercy, or perhaps making a final attempt to share some beauty. The interpretation will differ from listener to listener.
It’s hard to say goodbye to an old, beloved instrument, as many musicians are aware. The church organ in particular can hold numerous personal associations. Case in point: the church I attend has two organs and no organist, as a second organ was donated by a family who couldn’t bear to see it put to pasture. But very few parishioners are aware of the potential of the church organ, Hohner or otherwise. Kit Records has had this organ kicking around for years, but this is likely its swan song. If so, what a song!
Electronic organs come with patterns and presets, click tracks and timbre-changing switches. But what happens when the circuits wear down? Most decide to replace the organ with a newer model, which is usually more advanced and cheaper. In so doing, they miss the unusual downfall, the autumn of the instrument’s life, like committing a family member at the first sign of dementia.
The first four pieces here reflect the degradation of the instrument; the last four are new compositions, formed from the old. It’s easy to imagine what most churches would think of such music: it’s wrong, it’s broken, turn it off! Ironically, people attend churches because they themselves are wrong or broken. But in every mixed-age church, there is likely at least one person who might think, that song sounds like me. The cumulative effect of all this brokenness can bring a person to his knees.
“8 Beat Variation” sounds like a club track that has been left in the sun too long. It even contains a warning beep, repeating over the final third. One might almost dance to it in the early hours of the morning, with judgment abraded by alcohol and lack of sleep. In fact, the entire first side comes across as snippets and echoes of once predictable pieces, now freed from their tethers.
Then Devon Loch and Antidröm go to work. Suddenly the organ takes on new life, or at least its guts become something gutsier. The rhythms are restored, the click track returned to its natural location. Conversation pings around the room, as if the instrument is restored but the people are beginning to deteriorate. By the ending of “Perc”, the organ has become something akin to a video game console, spewing pings and beeps in chipper fashion. Healed, I’ve been healed! But no, alas, the organ is still ill; these pieces are studio creations, like a quartet of eulogies recalling the Hohner’s best moments. Which lives longer, memory or impression? In this case, we hope that Kit has kept the organ; if not, our church has room for three. (Richard Allen)