These are fucking astounding, this stuff was going on a couple years before kosmische was more than a twinkle in the krautrock scene’s eye. It predates Tangerine Dream’s and Manuel Gottsching’s amazing synth work, even! -Ian!
This reissue of the earliest work by Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Co. includes all of their first album, plus almost 20 minutes of previously unreleased material. The group wore their minimalist influences quite well, resulting in tracks which take the cycling repetitions of work by Steve Reich into new territory altogether, as on the 12-minute “Music.” Most of the music here is a bit beyond minimalism; in fact, it’s much closer to exploratory proto-space music or new age on the highlights “Ceres Motion” and “Cloudscape for Peggy,” the latter of which was composed around the time acts like Tangerine Dream and Cluster were just getting started.
A reissue of Mother Mallard’s second LP on their independent Earthquack Records, this CD presents music from the latter stages of their work as a group, after they had been playing and rehearsing together for five or six years and shortly before David Borden began devoting his full attention to his monumental 12-part Continuing Story of Counterpoint series. During these sessions, the group was a trio (as they generally had been from the beginning), with Borden and colleague Steve Drews as the constants and Judy Borsher replacing Linda Fisher, who had been the third member on earlier recordings. Instrumentation varied somewhat within the group, but since members were actively collaborating with inventor Robert Moog throughout most of the group’s life, various sizes and styles of Moog synthesizers were always the primary instruments, supplemented by an electric piano, which was usually played by Borsher (or Fisher before her). Borden had first envisioned Mother Mallard as a performance group who would disseminate and interpret the musical gospel of Glass, Reich, Riley, and other proponents of the new minimalism, and also feature original compositions by himself and his colleague, Steve Drews. Gradually, the original compositions took over, at least as indicated in the group’s recorded work. However, the influence of the big-name minimalists is relatively strong here, and the seven pieces on this CD all exhibit elements of the rhythmic-pattern minimalism of Glass and Reich, with touches, also, of Riley’s softer, drone-based mysticism. Consequently, although Mother Mallard is capable of the occasional funky ostinato riff, and notes are discreetly bent here and there, one will hear none of the variable pitch weirdness and timbral extremes which characterized prog rock’s early appropriation of Moogs, and which Borden and company dabbled with a bit themselves during the early ’70s. On this CD, Drews receives composer credits on five pieces to Borden’s two, although one of Borden’s two pieces is the lengthy and ambitious “C-A-G-E Part II,” which clocks in at over 20 minutes. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s really not much to chose between Drews and Borden as composers, and although Borden went on to achieve the greater reputation, a piece such as Drews’ “Oleo Strut” could be easily mistaken for one of Borden’s early “Counterpoint” pieces. Drews’ “Waterwheel” is also very appealing, with patterns of different lengths moving in and out of phase with each other, producing some interesting auditory disorientation. Borden’s feature piece is conceptually based, derived from the four musical notes which make up composer John Cage’s last name. The musicians play their parts for prearranged lengths of time, coming together only at the end of the piece. In spite of its logical premises, “C-A-G-E Part II” is a serene, meditative, and even hypnotic musical experience, at times suggesting both Riley’s “In C” and his “Rainbow in Curved Air.” Borden’s sophisticated knowledge of Baroque counterpoint is also evident in this piece, and he would use such elements to an even greater advantage a few years later in the Continuing Story of Counterpoint series.
-John Bush, Bill Tilland, allmusic.com