To undergo an album by Joseph Raglani is to explore the musical properties of a sound that isn't really music. Or is it?
Joseph Raglani has his fingers all tied up in electronics, yet the first five minutes or so of his album Real Colors of the Physical World bring two other things to my mind: rubber bands and a PVC pipe.
Acknowledging my taste in eccentric music one Christmas, my brother gave me a CD produced by Jim Nayder, host of The Annoying Music Show. On it was a recording of "Jingle Bells" arranged for rubber bands. It was hard to tell if this piece of yuletide irritation was recorded in earnest or not, but the musical properties of a rubber band were firmly planted in my brain's ear at that point. And as for the PVC pipe? Most kids that grew up in either a rural or suburban area know the sound of a potato being launched from such a narrow width. What can I say? You make your own fun.
This is nothing new to the patrons of the Editions Mego label. Go to their website, look at their roster and you'll see a black and white photo of Iannis Xenakis jotting something down and Bruce Gilbert with long hair (!). Editions Mego brings you the music you've never heard before. Rather than remind you of other music, the sounds on Real Colors of the Physical World remind you of things that don't, to most people anyway, qualify as music. You might hear crickets of the spheres, heaving waves of a vast ocean, druids mocking you from an electrical outlet or -- what the hell -- a potato canon. It's an abstract medium for sure, but the reminders are of tangible things. I guess you could say they come from the physical world, huh?
Where do the colors come in? I can't draw a line right where it happens, but Real Colors of the Physical World gradually becomes more "musical" as it goes along. The first two tracks, "Fog of Interruption" and "Terrain of Antiquity", are over 20-minutes long apiece. I could confine this review to the first two songs only since they occupy more than 80% of the album, but that would be foolish. As "Terrain of Antiquity" rolls along, the noise peels away, bit by bit. The banana you find on the inside isn't really a "song" per se, but it does embody more recognizable musical traits than the first track ("Fog" indeed).
It's in the last ten minutes of the album where this fog lifts for good. "The Exploded View" still stubbornly rejects the notion of becoming a tune, but its beeping riffing stakes a strong claim. It's like Raglani accomplished what Radiohead set out to do on "Where Bluebirds Fly" without really trying. The ground bass of "Trampoline Dream" sounds like one of those early Depeche modules, but it's the four-note melody perched on top that drives the thing home. They may not be songs, but "The Exploded View" and "Trampoline" can get stuck in your noggin just as easily as "Just Can't Get Enough".
Real Colors of the Physical World starts out as abstract electronic pointillism but wraps up as a poignant piece of music. Whether Joseph Raglani meant this to happen or not is irrelevant to its overall quality. The more time I spend with this album, the more delicately great it becomes. Who says rubber bands and polyvinyl chloride can't be pleasing to the ear? Who knows, maybe your ear will pick up something more profound. Maybe, just maybe, you'll detect a real color hidden in the code.