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Julius Eastman Femenine

Label
Frozen Reeds
Released
2nd June 2023

Format Info

2LP - Black Vinyl

An all time Monorail favourite, now available on vinyl for the first time.

2LP, gatefold sleeve.

Recorded live on Wednesday, November 6, 1974 at Composers Forum in Albany, The Arts Center, this performance of Femenine is the touchstone for cult composer Julius Eastman’s work. Cinematic, loving, an orgy of sound and cosmic minimalism, it’s been remastered by Jim O’Rourke for really one of the most lush, deep listening experiences you’ll ever have.

To these ears, Femenine is both the most accessible and most complete works Eastman ever composed. Sitting somewhere between the minimalist nadir of Steve Reich or peak Philip Glass and the celestial, spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane, its use of repetitive motifs sailing and slowly morphing over the shifting chordal sands of the ensemble playing reveals layer upon layer of meaning and emotion as the piece progresses. Masterpiece is an overused word but in this case, the summation of the joys and tribulations of living rendered in sound deserve the title. Femenine is all encompassing, a universe on offer to be slipped into, a place of perpetual peace and utopia. 

With a consistent use of shakers and percussion recalling the pioneering work of Pharoah Sanders sewn through out the piece, it’s fleshed out with a climbing and harmonically shifting piano playing and joyful flute elements that scintillate at the edges, like birds fluttering over the ocean in summer. Cinematic, evolving, the piece unfurls with an innate sense of quiet drama and cosmic movement. Flickers of dissonance arise only to be sung to peace by joyful pipes, the contrast consistently providing moments of pure pleasure. 59 minutes in there’s a slight lull, the vibraphones vibrating with tension, before a swirling flute solo with accompaniment curls at pace up into the serotonin-firing heavens. 

It’s one of many moments that reward deep listening. The minimalist-maximalist dynamic tapers off at the end, simmering out with a percussive solo in the darkness, a bold, contrasting ending to a riotous, thoroughly celestial narrative. 

This is the treasure your ears deserve.

Other Releases by Julius Eastman