The unwieldy 27-minute excursion "At About This Time Mozart Was Dead and Joseph Conrad Was Sailing the Seven Seas Learning English" could be the codex for everything Cale and company attempted and the Rosetta Stone for every aforementioned band. Adrift with only a viola, a guitar and a Wollensak tape recorder, Cale and Morrison navigate a perilous journey through the rocks and cataracts. Cale's viola thrums ominously in the middle distance of the subconscious while Morrison's guitar is primitively looped through the Wollensak and accelerated to imitate twittering mandolin-crickets. Their clashing, unsynchronized skeins of sound become tangled, then indistinguishable, then obliterated by the whirling knives of the Wollensak's pause button. Strings stretch taut until they scream, scrape across one another in howling figures, then snap and realign into alien, almost familiar wails and hums and growls. How is it that the ideas Cale and his friends played with 30-odd years ago are evident and even rampant in the work of so many people who never heard this music? The answer is just another fragment of the secret history of the twentieth century, and its mystery only enhances Stainless Gamelan's otherworldly beauty.
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