Terry Riley’s In C is a piece of music that can be played on virtually any set of instruments, by any number of musicians, at a variety of tempos. It has been adapted beyond classical music to ragas, African music, choirs, piano ensembles, laptop orchestra, experimental rock, and now doom metal trio. Ouroboros is Broken, featuring Sean Garcia-Leys on guitars, Jeff Schwartz on bass, and Pat Palma on drums, recorded a pair of long tracks interpreting In C back in 2011, and put out the album. This is a low-cost digital reissue of their efforts.
Garcia-Leys and Palma were members of a hardcore group when they came up with the idea for this project. They contacted Schwartz, who is known for traveling in experimental jazz circles. Aside from an overdubbed guitar track, they recorded the album live in the studio at an appropriately plodding speed. The guitar and bass parts large followed Riley’s patterns, while the drumming was improvised.
Without forewarning, it might be difficult to discern that this album is In C. Initially, it comes across as being more similar to doom or drone metal ala Sunn O))). The guitar tracks trade riffs, power chords, sustained notes, and feedback in accordance with Riley’s repetitive themes. Bass and drums are ponderous. These features blend into a heady and trancelike sequence of slow-moving progressions that create atmospheres rather than just harmonies.
Nonetheless, according to the liner notes, Riley heard and approved of this recording, pleased that his composition could be taken in such a direction. And thanks to this re-release, the rest of us can easily find similar pleasure in its massive walls of distortion.