John Fahey Vol. II: Death Chants, Breakdowns, And Military Waltzes on Colored LP
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Acoustic guitarist John Fahey was impossible to classify. His eclectic music included traditional-sounding folk pieces, Indian ragas, blues, and unpredictable modern works, not fitting securely into any specific category but somehow always sounding personal. The founder of the Takoma label (named after his hometown of Takoma Park, MD), Fahey performed instrumentals that, because of his use of space and atmosphere, hinted at New Age a couple of decades before that genre was born, but his music generally contained much more variety and expressed quite a few different moods, often unpredictably.
1963's Death Chants, Breakdowns, And Military Waltzes is Fahey's second album, following the brilliantly apocryphal Blind Joe Death. As massive as that earlier work was, it represented only a tentative first step towards the fields of hodologic splendor that our hero would go on to create. Death Chants represents a much more fully realized syncretism of the modernist and primitive poles between which Fahey wobbled. It is also the first album he deigned to release entirely under his own name and the one with which he truly began to cast a shadow across the blandly-lit landscape of the world's subconscious.
Although containing original material, Fahey's music often looks back to the 1800s not only with nostalgia but with a bit of whimsical distortion. How else to explain songs with the titles of "The Downfall of the Adelphi Rolling Grist Mill" and "Dance of the Inhabitants of the Palace of King Philip XIV"?