Previously only available in a limited-release cassette, Black Tape for a Blue Girl's Before the Buildings Fell is a collection of Sam Rosenthal's earliest electronic recordings. Songs like "Kathryn," "Fragments of Benediction," and "The Amber Girl" are elongated, atmospheric pieces that predate genre titles like electronica or darkwave, but still sound fresh and surprisingly warm over a decade later. Shorter pieces like "Resolution," "Leading to the Edge," and the title track keep the album's pacing interesting, and the CD's enhanced portion includes the full video for "Fragments of Benediction." A must for Black Tape for a Blue Girl fans, and worthwhile for fans of ambient, electronic soundscapes. - Heather Phares
4 of 5 stars (Outstanding).
Re-release of a dream diary filled with achingly blissful memories.
Sam Rosenthal's work as Black Tape For A Blue Girl has always resonated from the caverns of his heart and soul, as both the music and the liner notes for this re-release from 1986 attest. Recorded concurrently with the rope (Black Tape's first album), Before the buildings fell is a shining example of post-prog / pre-electronica electronics, and Rosenthal's underappreciated ambient efforts. Without sequencers and samplers to simplify the process, Rosenthal and his contemporaries labored in a profoundly hands-on environment, proving that, even in this age of machines, art remains in the hands of the artists. Sounding rather like Steve Roach's earliest work, Before suggests a photo album of memories before the bombs fell, an apt metaphor for the demise of a relationship. Artists enjoy the rare opportunity to purge their pain through their art, and the majority of the tracks here apparently went a long way toward bridging the gap between suffering and healing. The 15-minute CD-ROM track for "Fragments of Benediction" is like a blissful tether to bygone happiness. "The Room" is a more eerie and ghostly track, but melancholy and longing are the dominant themes here and Rosenthal's gift for bringing this to bear makes for a work of lasting quality.
While Sam was composing the first gothic chapter of his main band Black Tape For A Blue Girl the rope
, he recorded a tape of electronic music, similar to the works of the young Steve Roach. Empetus
, Steve's definitive homage to the cosmik music, was released in the same year Before the buildings fell
was recorded, 1986. In tracks like "kathryn," "diversion," and "fragments of benediction," you can hear the echoes of that era. It's impossible to hear electronic music in the rock arena without immediately thinking of Brian Eno, but there's no link except for the short, but wonderful "resolution" and "leading to the edge." If Brain Eno invented ambient music with works like Discreet Music
and Music for Airports
, then Before the buildings fell
is not ambient. It isn't an atmosphere, a shifty landscape where your brain loses its way for hours (or minutes), but is composed of muscle and nerve: it pulses (before the post-Orbesque indie-electronica meant you scratched your nose on hearing this word). I really hope Sam finds more time to dedicate to electronic works such as this or the beautiful ambient CD composed with Vidna Obmana in 1991/92 Terrace of Memories
, or the marvelous track he gave to Stefano Gentile's Amplexus
. Some might think that darkwave began with Joy Division, but Sam Rosenthal wouldn't agree. There were two other main influences on the BTFAGB sound before the Ian Curtis band: Popul Vuh and Tangeringe Dream, and that's what you're hearing on this hidden masterpiece.