David Lee Myers
Arcane Device - Engines Of Myth


With its bizarre cover in black, yellow and orange, sporting an artist's name that was totally unknown to me, Arcane Device 1 - Engines Of Myth was one of the most intriguing surprises of 1988, the year when the vinyl LP was originally released. Interestingly, the cover talked of "feedback music" - i.e., as was explained (?), of "Improvisations for feedback within/between time delay electronics, recorded live to tape". The cover also mentioned New York as the place where the artist resided.

"Feedback within/between time delay electronics" meant exactly this - that the system lacked any input signal. An idea that - for this writer, at least - was quite new and stimulating - but not really clear. But an article by Myers himself - called A 'Personal System' For Electronic Music, it appeared on Volume 2 Number 3 of the much lamented Re Records Quarterly Magazine - made everything easily comprehensible.

It's quite obvious that the fact that the idea was new would have been worthless by itself if the aesthetical results had not been so stimulating. But the music was fresh and with a very clear form (is the word "organized" ok?) - which was definitely not to be taken for granted, given the fact that the whole system had a high level of randomness, hence the results were by necessity pretty different.

The first tracks of the album - Lathe, Engine Of Myth, Mg 24.312, all with a high dramatic quotient - reminded me of one of my heroes, the seldom mentioned USA innovator Tod Dockstader - and not exactly by chance, since a dedication to him appeared on the LP cover.

The whole album rewarded repeated listening, from the "muezzin" featured in Prayer Cloth to the long closing track titled Deaf Men Hear No Tales, to the strange Bowie-like echoes of Pink Porous Rock.

Some time later, a double 45 called Arcane Device 3 - Improvisations For Feedback updated the story: two tracks in the studio, two tracks live - the latter tracks especially giving a clear idea of the possibilities.

A few years later I heard other things by Myers, but to me none seemed to possess the dry, clear quality of that album, which meanwhile had become pretty difficult to find. Now you can listen to it (quite literally, I'd say, since the CD seems to come from an LP transfer - but fear not: sound's excellent, the dynamic range very good), plus the aforementioned double single.

I would have liked to find reproduced here that article by Myers - maybe I'm the only one who regards this things as being important?

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003

CloudsandClocks.net | Oct. 7, 2003