Glenn Branca
The Ascension


5.0
classic

Review

by danielito19 USER (22 Reviews)
May 19th, 2014 | 13 replies


Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Ascension will change the way you hear guitars.

"If I was a composition teacher, this is what I would teach my students. I would probably give them very difficult and strange types of sound-making devices, and say, “Make me a piece of music with this.” Two-by-fours, pipes, I don’t know, whatever, because I don’t think the music is about the instrument. I think it’s about the mind. The mind creates the music. Not the instrument. Not even the musician."

From the bass intro to Lesson No. 2 to the final tremolo-picked guitars and psychotic drums of the title track, Glenn Branca’s The Ascension is an unrelenting aural assault. Branca was originally involved in New York’s “no wave” scene, and this is no wave’s magnum opus; a forty-two minute exploration of the capabilities of guitars. While much of Branca’s later work is composed for an orchestra of up to a hundred guitars, The Ascension showcases a smaller ensemble. Branca’s later work also revolves around an odd tuning system revolving around harmonics - for his third symphony, Gloria, he received a grant to build instruments that would function in this harmonic tuning system. The Ascension, however, is all about pushing the absolute bounds of guitar music. The buzzsaw tones presented throughout the album are ugly and confrontational, and during intense dissonant sections like the first four or five minutes of The Spectacular Commodity, Branca’s composition sounds almost like a horror soundtrack.

However, those who forge on through the discordant twelve-minute epic that is The Spectacular Commodity will be rewarded by some of the craziest riffing in history, as well as a key change so beautiful it demands myriad rewindings. The most incredible aspect of this is how utterly Godspeed You! Black Emperor the song is, both in structure and sound - and this was released sixteen years before the post-rock titans dropped their seminal LP F# A# Infinity.

The Spectacular Commodity is a strong contender for best song on the album, but that’s not to say the other songs are slackers by any means. Intro track Lesson No. 2 (a counterpoint to Branca’s earlier EP Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar) displays an evil-sounding buildup before abruptly collapsing into aggressive chordal attacks, while three-minute interlude Structure begins with a 5/4 riff that seems innocent at first, but is quickly and efficiently corrupted into a terrifying squealing, with tense chords pounding out underneath as the drumming gets more and more frantic. Structure boasts a very organic structure, and the buildup is subtle yet effective. The other two tracks are on the lengthier side, but Branca never resorts to flaccid repetition or weak songwriting. Light Field (In Consonance) carries itself with rollicking slips and slides through a three act odyssey of tremolo picking and quietly plucked harmonics before culminating in a life-affirming reprisal of the first two movements. The titular closing track cycles through a wide range of dynamics before gliding through a cacophonous, almost shoegazy section and finally showcasing frenzied drums and drawn-out tremolo picked notes.

Simply put, The Ascension is experimental music at its finest. No wave’s finest album is one of the most influential works of guitar music, exhibiting glimpses of post-rock, shoegaze, and even black metal, while remaining firmly entrenched in noise rock. The Ascension is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to hear guitars pushed to their limits.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Ire
May 18th 2014


41786 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

good album good review

wheres ethixxx

ethos
May 18th 2014


1792 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

ayyyyyyyyyy

Cygnatti
May 18th 2014


21352 Comments


finally a review

Digging: Jon Hopkins - Immunity

danielito19
May 18th 2014


5803 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

wow you got here before I summoned you

what up

PunchforPunch
May 18th 2014


6280 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sweet

Digging: Robert Hood - Fabric 39

laughingman22
May 18th 2014


1723 Comments


need to hear this

Digging: Throbbing Gristle - Part 2: The Endless Not

BMDrummer
May 18th 2014


7690 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Need to get me some Glenn Branca soon.

Digging: Shellac - Dude Incredible

danielito19
May 18th 2014


5803 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

this is probably his best // most accessible

Chortles
May 18th 2014


17966 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i love this album, glad to see a review for it. nice one m8

Hovse
May 19th 2014


896 Comments


damn this album does rule

TheBarber
May 19th 2014


1963 Comments


swinging live performer, even though you can feel his misanthropy from a mile away on stage

Digging: Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

ShitsofRain
May 19th 2014


5899 Comments


keep going daniel

Digging: Anthony Shakir - Frictionalism 1994-2009

danielito19
May 20th 2014


5803 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

anyways if anyone who hasn't heard branca stumbles into this thread you should listen to structure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KkLvw1e3J0



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