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Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Viking of Sixth Avenue

Posted on Thu, Apr 13, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The Viking of Sixth Avenue
Label: Honest Jon's/Astralwerks
Rated: NONE
WorkNameSort: Viking of Sixth Avenue, The

As the excellent liner notes in this fantastic 36-track compilation point out, the only other American musicians that Moondog can be realistically compared to would be Harry Partch and Sun Ra. All three created their own cosmological realities, all three rebuked the limitations of "style" and "form," all three were prone to creating their own instruments and, most importantly, all three were largely reviled by the middlebrow establishment. Yes, Moondog would dress like a Viking and wander the streets of New York (after signing his contract with Columbia Records, he simply moved his operation to the sidewalk in front of the building), but he was also admired by everyone from Stravinsky to Philip Glass. His percussive, circular compositions incorporated Native American rhythms, jazz-tinged melodies, early-music intonations and a raft of homemade instruments. This disc is the first comprehensive look at Moondog's work, compiling pieces recorded for nine different labels over the course of 45 years, and the collective impact is impressive. In the same way that Moondog's individual works are tiny, self-referential universes, so were each of his many albums over the years capable of inducing a sort of rhythmic hypnosis. By spanning his different compositional approaches, this disc emerges as a multipart symphony of sound and innovation.

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