The inarguable square root of so much post-, math-, and avant-rock to come, one of those records that makes history fall into place around it.
One of the most striking, singular débuts of its era, Ascension was and still is a stunning example of an artist pushing the boundaries of their chosen instrument. By this point Branca was already a staple of NYC’s No Wave movement with Theoretical Girls and The Static, two groups who strove to strip rock music back to its primitivist roots and rediscover its truth. After a small handful of records with those bands, he progressed to arrange his own group, the Ascension Band, revolving around Branca as one of four electric guitarists (also including a pre-Sonic Youth Lee Ranaldo), plus a bassist and drummer, who were gathered in order to explore the possibilities of massed, alternate tunings for multiple guitars, sowing the seeds for what would later fully come to fruition with the development of his symphonies for 100 guitars.
In five movements recorded at The Power Station, the Ascension Band explore the guitar’s then-lesser heard voices in a way which would directly feed forward into myriad strains of guitar music as we know it. Opening with Lesson No.2, a grindingly hypnotic motorik follow-up to his first EP Lesson No.1,the album takes in Branca’s 12 minute masterpiece The Spectacular Commodity a situationist-inspired piece full of complex tempo changes and thrilling discord, to variously investigate, gnashing, clashing harmonics Structure, and onto the monotone thrum of Light Field, and the nerve-jangling chaos of The Ascencion, which is the inarguable square root of so much post-, math-, and avant-rock to come, from Swans to Sonic Youth, and on thru GY!BE or even Raime.
The Ascension is one of those records that makes history fall into place around it, when given and heard in proper context. It’s just essential listening. R.I.P. Glenn Branca.
1. Lesson No. 2
2. The Spectacular Commodity
4. Light Field
5. The Ascension