I’m not one to search out gospel music, but when it’s experimental gospel music, yeah, I’m interested. Andrij Orel and Oleg Vorobyov who record as Riasni Drova used samples of Homer Quincy Smith’s vocals for a recording, Yes, the Fish Music, released recently on We Have No Zen. I never heard of Smith before which is understandable since only two recordings exist of his from the 1920s. The blog Echo Park, which specializes in old-time gospel and blues, points us to the Griel Marcus 2003 column about listening to Smith’s recording for the first time.
Blackwood played a 1926 Paramount release by Homer Quincy Smith and mouths dropped open in shock. “I want Jesus to walk with me” — a man sings in a slow, measured cadence, making it plain he understands how much he’s asking for. The performance begins with the tinny sound of a calliope, which as Smith’s voice goes down to the bottom of a mine turns into a huge pipe organ. At the end, Smith lets his voice rise, until it seems a thing in itself, on its way to Jesus, leaving the singer behind. Another participant had prepared a response to Blackwood’s presentation, but as an instance of the great game of “Follow that, motherfucker!” I never saw anything like it.
The Ukranian duo perform a sort of weird improvisational electro-acoustic experimental music. The first track, “Shadow”, doesn’t include any Smith samples, but it sets the mood with music that outrightly mangles string instruments. The two tracks which featured Smith’s vocals are full of dirge and genuinely awkward sounds. Great samples, great music.
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