Sunday, August 8, 2010
FOR THOSE WHO MISSED THE 2ND COMING
In April 1986, partly to celebrate the return of Halley's Comet and partly to gratify my libidinous addiction to musical extemporization, I released a limited-edition cassette titled 2nd Coming.
It was my second solo album. The first, released two years earlier, was titled Solitary Vice (& Other Virtues).
As "the world's most ambitious amateur," I had recorded, mixed and produced both albums on my own initiative, financed by my own hard-earned money. The first album sold pretty well, even if no record company was interested in helping me distribute it, and with the proceeds I was able to buy studio time (at a generous discount, thank Rediffusion!) to record 2nd Coming on state-of-the-art, 16-track, 2-inch analog tape.
Why did I call myself "E. Manu Eel"? Well, I was billed as "M. Eeel" on the first album. For some reason, I didn't want to use the name I was known by at the time (i.e., Kit Leee). Being musically illiterate, I didn't feel that I had "composed" the music; it felt more like I had "channeled" it.
In any case, Eeel is Leee spelt backwards and the M was actually for "Magruser" (Resurgam spelt backwards, which means in Latin, "I shall rise again!") E. Manu Eel held the key to some of my secret pet beliefs, viz., that my essential function was that of a Manu (Sanskrit for "progenitor"). Emmanuel or Immanuel, of course, is the only name for the Christos incarnation mentioned in the New Testament - and it refers to the divinity immanent within us or Spirit made Flesh.
Orgasm with pants on
I describe my addiction to musical extemporization as "libidinous" - because the thrill I experienced listening to the playback on the studio speakers of music I had just recorded was the closest sensation to a full-fledged orgasm with pants on. Folks who dislike me might label my obsession narcissistic - but nobody has ever been compelled at gunpoint to listen to my musical output.
Yet, many whose musical taste I trust have lavished compliments on me after hearing my efforts. So my music-making may not be entirely masturbatory an exercise, after all.
On 27 April 1986, Saw Tek Meng, New Straits Times music critic, wrote in a half-page feature on 2nd Coming:
"Those with a sense of adventure and a penchant for avant-garde, neo-minimalist experimentations will find his music invigorating. That a Malaysian can produce such stimulating sounds is gratifying in itself; that he has the audacity to record, produce and market it with his own money surely merits the support of all discerning music lovers."
Passing the Teutonic test
I sent a copy of 2nd Coming to my Bavarian girlfriend Xandi - and she wrote back enthusiastically comparing my work to that of Keith Jarrett ("Actually I like your music better!" she gushed, and won my heart for all time, even though I know Keith Jarrett is the consummate musician, not me). The late great Hans Sallmann, then director of Goethe-Institut Kuala Lumpur and an ardent weekend cellist, woke me up early one morning with a phonecall, a few days after I had presented him with my cassette. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, Hans asked me very solemnly which name I would prefer to be indexed under in his music archive; he added, "Yours is certainly the most interesting music I have come across since arriving in Malaysia."
More recently, Peter Graf, doublebass player with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, heard a few tracks from 2nd Coming and requested that I burn him a CD with a selection of my instrumental works. The next day I received a morale-boosting SMS from him which convinced me it was time to re-issue my 1986 album and unleash it on a whole new generation.
The fact that the rave reviews I have received have thus far mostly originated from Germans may or may not have anything to do with the incidental fact that the 30-minute piano extemporization featured on the album is called The Comet Cometh... & Goeth (to Goethe's Himmel). It was recorded in five sections, each keyed to a specific color, except for the finale (Rainbow Round The Sun). This is how Saw Tek Meng described Comet:
"The Yellow Sage Goes Pop is bright, inspired by visions of Lao-tze. Red is anger and Little Hood Riding Red appropriately evokes blood and violence. Into The Black Maria is played only on the black notes and has two meanings - Black Maria should strike an unpleasant chord among the criminal kind and is also interchangeable with Black Madonna (incidentally, the original title) which represents the goddess Kali."
This is Saw Tek Meng quoting me: "I couldn't decide whether or not to release Comet. So I played it to a close friend, ex-lecturer and fellow ontologist Salleh Joned. Salleh listened from start to finish. Then he kept silent for another 30 minutes. That's when I decided to release it. I figured that if it could shut Salleh up for 30 minutes, I had better release it."
When will 2nd Coming be available on CD ~ and how can I order a copy?
At this point (8 August) I'm waiting for Swiss sound wizard Deejay Sanuk (aka Daniel Schwörer) to send me the master. He spent some weeks tweaking the digitized files and breathing life back into the mix. As soon as the master arrives, I will replicate a few hundred CDs for sale via this blog. I would like to have the CD ready to ship by the first week of September.
It would help me cover expenses if those interested put in their orders early by (1) transferring RM25 into either Maybank savings account #112071252584 or Public Bank savings account #4468026936; or (2) depositing USD10/€8 into my PayPal account c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please don't forget to email your postal address. The price includes postage. You will be notified when the CDs are posted.
To listen to a few sample tracks from 2nd Coming, click here and select "Annapurna," "Hollywood" or "Rainbow Round The Sun."