This is the album I have been waiting for. The new material featuring outtakes and isolated tracks, pulls back the curtains to reveal the master at work. Up there with the IBM computer singing "Daisy", the world's first Artificial Intelligence music generator can be heard under the command of Raymond Scott himself. Hearing what the Electronium really sounded like in action gave me goosebumps. These are the moments avid listeners live for. Rare they may be in this day and age, the new release from Basta Music, "Three Willow Park: Electronic Music from Inner Space, 1961–71" delivers many of these moments.
The follow-up to the 2000 "Manhattan Research Inc." album that effectively turned the world onto Raymond Scott. This new release takes a closer look at the man and his instruments, especially the Electronium. The music and accompanying book are some of the most detailed examinations of Raymond's electronic "sidemen", that he designed and built himself. Instead of the vintage commercials and ephemera we know Raymond Scott for. Three Willow Park (TWP) features numerous alternates, outtakes, demonstrations, and solo tracks that provide a first-hand encounter with the unadulterated production recordings. While the term "raw" may be applied, these tracks are full-fidelity recordings, amazingly bright and clear - even by today's standards.
The beautifully packaged 3 LP set laid out a in modern vintage style, instantly transports the listener to the time and place of the contents. Each of the record sleeves featuring a different layout. Are filled with delightful Scott ephemera of the facility, instruments and daily life in the factory. The covers are just the teaser for the accompanying 20 page booklet that goes even deeper into the archives to present detailed articles on Scott's electronic music years. Arguably, one of the most important times in Raymond Scott's life. When the Electronium and other inventions matured into products for other people to use. Ultimately, opening the door to his relationship with Motown. The booklet's articles by Scott historians Irwin Chusid, Gert-Jan Blom and Jeff Winner. Accounts by celebrities Robert Moog, Tom Rhea, Herb Deutsch, Brain Kehew and others. With the addition of memories from family and friends. Provide an endearing look at Raymond Scott the artist, engineer, business man, and father. Long standing questions on his instruments are answered, myths dispelled, and new ones presented. I found my self re-reading the booklet again and again. For those who really want to know, the booklet is worth the price alone.
When was the last time you put on some music and were moved emotionally by what you heard? These kinds of experiences are rare in this age of on-demand everything. Listening to the TWP tracks are a trip back in time when electronic music was still a Wild-West of sorts. Raymond's enigmatic story is especially interesting because he used audio to document what he did. The sound quality on TWP is so good, and intimate. There is an eerie presence with his gentle voice guiding the listener through the inner-workings of his creations. It feels like you are in the room with him.
Production aside, it is what we hear on TWP that makes the ears dance. Spanning 2+ hours on 61 tracks. This is a literal smorgasbord of electronic works by Raymond Scott. Some will sound familiar to those who know the "Manhattan Research Inc" recordings with various alternate and outtakes. While related, the TWP collection has done a fine job of choosing contrasting versions that can be quite different from the final production versions. I got a laugh hearing an electronic version of Powerhouse used on a Domino Sugar commercial. Toy Trumpet, Pygmy War Dance, and classic commercial spots can be heard as well. Yet, those are the minority in the collection. The rest of the cuts are of new and unheard material, including some Motown recordings.
These recordings not only show how Raymond Scott composed. They let us hear what many of his inventions really sounded like. The Electronium is the rightful star of the show, but we get to hear the Circle Machine, Clavivox, Bandito The Bongo Artist and others as well. His incredible creativity is immediately apparent in how he's able to configure intricate and or delicate compositions from mere beeps and boops. This was new territory at the time. Scott's vision for an electronic composition system (band) is still a model of complexity and functionality today. This is well evidenced in the many demonstrations, most under 1 minute. Scott's pieces are confidently composed, with a relaxed kind of precision that makes them sound electronic, but have a human element at the same time. Hearing what are effectively intelligent algorithms that play themselves out, musically, or not. It is still a marvel on more aesthetic levels than I will touch on in an album review. Not unlike the discovery of fractals. There's a sense that we're peering into the inner-workings of the Universe. In this regard, Scott is the Tesla of sound. A man who's life was dedicated to commanding the universal rules of sound for the good of all mankind. For your own good, be sure to get "Three Willow Park: Electronic Music from Inner Space, 1961–71" from Basta Music on June 30th.
See more information on the release at the official Raymond Scott site: http://www.raymondscott.net/three-willow-park/