Buried Treasure and the Evening Redness in the West

I bumped into T.G. Olson‘s The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar 6CD set the way someone might bump into a mountain. I was in the process of putting together the recent stream of the Across Tundras/Lark’s Tongue split, and found it on the Across Tundras Bandcamp page, just waiting for me. And I say it was “waiting for me,” because who else could it possibly have been waiting for? Six CDs in a hand-bound book complete with two prints, a page cut out of a Navajo history (that’s on back of the red design, above), and a copy of an 1850s pamphlet from the US government on Indian activity. For $25? Shit. I couldn’t order it fast enough.

It is, as advertised, a complete soundtrack to Cormac McCarthy‘s ultraviolent and classic 1985 novel, Blood Meridian, scored on guitar by T.G. Olson of Across Tundras. Throughout most of the 233-minute (that’s three hours and 53 minutes) release, it is indeed just Olson‘s guitar, plucking out distorted Westernisms in fittingly sparse fashion, but there are flourishes of activity here and there, earlier on some drums and synth and samples, later, a flourishing sense of foreboding that comes to a head in a wash before the included “Epilogue” piece rounds the work out. There are notes, resonant melody, but never songs so much as movements of a whole work, some fading in and out, some ending cold.

Would be inappropriate to say the physical product is as fascinating as the music — because as much as there is going on with the packaging, it’s not a nigh-on-four-hour thematic run through a brilliant piece of literature — so I’ll stop short of that and just note the obvious time and effort that went into it. Both prints are handmade, as is the art on the CD book itself, which opens to pages of collage images and print imagery. There are 12 pages in all, three discs in backwards, designed on sleeves, positioned on the right side of the first half, the left side of the second, with an image in the center of houses carved into a mountain cut in half by the rope binding the whole thing together. Mine got roughed up some during shipping, but a bent corner only adds character in this context.

The level of detail extends to the music. It would have to for a project like this not to completely fall flat — which I’m happy to say The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar doesn’t. Still, one might think that after the first five discs, Olson might phone in a drone or two, but in keeping with McCarthy‘s writing style, the guitar follows a path that’s almost lush in its minimalism, creating a wide open expanse that makes you feel small, threatened and helpless even as you keep wanting to go further into the kid’s story, the Glanton gang, the scalping, on and on into this swirl of purely American senseless destruction that’s our history as much as it’s what we want to watch on our televisions in the evening. If you’ve never read the book, do that.

As for me, it’s been a while, and I might just have to revisit Blood Meridian with Olson‘s score accompanying to see how it matches up. He recorded live, improv late in 2012 and early in 2013 and is only doing 100 on CDR (also 50 on four cassettes), so if you want to get in on the physical version, time’s probably short. The download is a whopping five dollars, which if I’ve got my math right, means you get 2,796 seconds of audio for each dollar you spend. Just in case you want to check it out, here’s the Bandcamp stream:

T.G. Olson, The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar

T.G. Olson: The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar on Bandcamp

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