hasn't seen the light of day in almost forty years; indeed, if Nurse with Wound hadn't included it on their list of seminal experimental recordings, you wouldn't be reading about it now. It's also positive proof that Providence, RI has been a hotbed of weirdness since the sixties. Holed up in a sort of artistic commune/hovel, Sondheim and the six musicians who comprise Ritual All 770 set out to return avant garde composition to its roots, tearing it from academia's claws and imbuing it with a ragged, earthy spirit that's equal parts pupil-blowing pharmacological hedonism and hippie campfire mysticism.
A single forty-minute composition broken into ten slightly more digestible chunks, The Songs will enthrall anyone with a penchant for John Cage and free-jazz wailing, but is likely to discourage listeners looking for garage-bred psychedelic heaviness. Not that these compositions aren't "heavy", but there isn't a fleck of fuzztone guitar or romp-a-lomp drum fills anywhere in these wandering interstellar orchestrations. The whole forty-minute trip was recorded in one take, and it shows. Musical elements regularly stumble over one another -- guitars strafe dueling vocals, while sitars, recorders and kotos strangle melody lines, awash in a sea of muffling reverb. The multi-phonic vocal parts are the album's strangest element; their muted cries give way to histrionic screaming and off-time gamelan chanting that spirals into stark whispers.
Viewed as a piece of avant garde history, The Songs is arguably essential -- but when it's compared to the work of today's free-noise heathens, the legend collapses. The Songs is merely another strange, ancient album concocted by a weird guy and his freakazoid cronies.