Henry Flynt, You Are My Everlovin’/Celestial Power (1986)
You Are My Everlovin’ / Celestial Power is a force of nature. A fucking force of nature, even. It is hard to even begin describing Henry Flynt’s music; it's utterly unique, influential, mind-blowing. So I will refrain from plagiarizing other people’s work like I usually do.
So where to start? You may already know the guy, as a philosopher and artist in the Fluxus movement, and for his 60s anti-art campaigns with Tony Conrad, Jack Smith, et al. The guy was pretty formidable on the electric violin, too. Most would place Flynt in with drone or minimalist genres, which is apt but incomplete. Besides the nods to LaMonte Young, there is the processed, droning loops a la contemporaries Taj Mahal Travellers, Terry Riley and John Cale, but also the folk ragas of Ravi Shankar and John Fahey, proto-punk, and no wave0-style aggressive rock not to mention emotive phrasings that recall the most traditional classical compositions. Yes, like many artists on this list, Henry Flynt brings together a wide array of disparate genres that fuse the dissonant with the melodic.
Flynt has done this so powerfully, however, that nearly all of the best bands working in this new age of avant garde ethnic/folk music (Natural Snow Buildings, Six Organs of Admittance, Jack Rose/Pelt and countless others) owe at least a portion of their sound to this man’s musical innovations. The influence or sign post I didn’t identify Flynt with before would have to be the rural, ethnic folk music he must have been exposed to growing up in North Carolina. The synthesis of all these styles being one of a new generation of ethnic music pushing the boundaries of the traditional, the avant garde and everything in between. Read his take on it here.
Everlovin’ starts off like something you may have heard before. Processed string drones push forward with dense textures that move with purpose; you see the tape consists of two tracks, 45 minutes or so a side. Believe me, this is not the kind of thing you listen to for the purpose of saying you have listened to it. Within minutes Flynt teaches you how to make engrossing drone music. His electric violin plows through classical cues, sliding from atonal avant distortion to the most straightforward and upbeat phrasing with absolute fluidity, all the while completely aware of the looping drones, playing between them and with them instead of sloppily over them. Flynt eases into the flow with some grooving ragas, only taking time to merge the eastern sounds with his own ethnic hillbilly music, rattling off scorching “solos” straight from the front porch of a smoky mountain folk revival. It is electrifying, awe-inspiring and captivating. I still can’t believe 40-plus minutes have passed by the end.
At this point, by the way, one is met with a straight-out rock influenced, aggressive catharsis that does not work without the previous 40 minutes and possibly couldn’t wrap up the immense improvisation in a more perfect way. Free improvisation? I guess I left jazz out in my description above. Flynt is also on some spiritual, Albert Ayler type progressions as well.
The B side, Celestial Power, compliments Everlovin', but focuses less on drone and instead on a more damaged, quick looping pattern which he weaves in and out of with darting violin lines. All that was monumental on the A side remains here.