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In the spring of 2012, Allen Ravenstine and Robert Wheeler travelled to historic Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton, Ontario to appear in “I DREAM OF WIRES”, a documentary about the role of modular synthesizers in electronic music.
Canadian Filmmaker Robert Fantinatto dedicated a 20 minute special to his interview with the two pioneers of industrial electronics – and their choice of the unique EML “Electrocomp” synthesizer as a performance instrument in Pere Ubu.
Allen was a composer, patron and pioneer of the burgeoning Cleveland arts scene in the early 1970’s. As resident synthesist with Pere Ubu, he earned international acclaim for his inspired use of industrial sound before retiring from popular music in the late 1980’s.
The Ravenstine approach to live performance – rejecting the traditional tonal keyboard for an intuitive wash of modulated noise, has been much imitated but rarely equaled.
When Pere Ubu reconvened with a new lineup in 1995, Robert Wheeler (of Home & Garden fame) brought his own unique skills on the EML 101 and Theremin to the mix.
Robert has the added distinction of being a relative of Thomas Edison – a birthright that led to a leading role in the Edison Birthplace Museum and a trip to the Grammy Awards in January 2010.
While Allen had left synthesis behind him years before, with characteristic good humor, he agreed to patch and perform on the EML 200 for the documentary.
With Robert joining in on his signature 101, two lengthy stretches of unintended improvisation followed.
Schedules were thrown out the window and the studio doors stayed open until Allen was forced to catch his flight back to NYC.
Perhaps because the two had never played together before, the recordings that followed have a magical quality; a voyage of mutual discovery in a genre that they had pioneered a decade apart.
At points one performer would leave the room, letting the antique synthesizer fill in his parts until he returned.
Bob Doidge described the experience as watching “four hands attached to one body”. It was virtually impossible to discern where Ravenstine began and Wheeler ended.
Two days of tape were lovingly edited into bookend albums of hypnotizing music. Scraps and sound effects from the sessions were posthumously assembled to create a pair of wonderfully eccentric singles – released on audiophile vinyl to enormous success.
“City Desk” and “Farm Report” are the work of two friends with mutual respect and a profound shared intelligence.
The titles were drawn from the signature lines of their personal correspondence; an affectionate in joke referencing the not-so-great divide between Gramercy Park and the Homer Page Farm in Milan, Ohio.
Electronic meditations, musique d'ameublement, imaginary landscapes; there are dozens of ways of describing the end result of this remarkable collaboration.
The fact is that you have probably never heard anything quite like it. Highly recommended as an essential purchase for any library of thoughtful original music.
Featuring the joint recordings of Allen Ravenstine and Robert Wheeler, on EML Electrocomp Synthesizers.
Produced by Ravenstine/Wheeler/Blakeney
Recorded and mixed by Bob Dodge.
Digital Assembly by Amy King
Mastered by William Blakeney
Art direction, design and layout by A Man Called Wrycraft