Each piece is dizzy with activity, as he constantly shifts gears, discovers new noises, and giddily disrupts his own flow. Unpredictability becomes its own motif, and surreal patterns emerge and vanish incessantly, giving Electronic Works a playful sense of humor. Like electronic pioneer and cartoon-scorer Raymond Scott, First knows how to inject both absurdity and drama into abstract electronics, often in the same breath...What I’m usually left with is a kind of caffeinated brain buzz; once First’s relentless compositions get neurons firing, it’s tough to make them stop. That might also be what makes Electronic Works sound undated—the direct effect it has on your grey matter is powerful enough to cut through decades.
Restored from the original reel to reel recordings, Electronic Works is five mutable transmissions that range from blippy, spastic kill screen sounds to a bliztkrieg of machine terror. While, closer “Moody” borders on a tranquil jazz trip, if only in relation to the remainder of the collection. It's a glimpse into a defining year for David First, one we're only catching up to over 30 years later.
Punk as fuck, abrasive and visceral...those currently cocking an ear to Ekoplekz, Time Attendant or Some Truths are likely to be enthralled by these gonzo analogue workouts.
These five noisy, churning pieces have little in common with the polite, eggheaded synthesizer music typically made during his period. Instead First layers dive-bomber sirens, harsh squeals, and rubbery pulses (and on "Moody," ferocious electric guitar) into visceral soundscapes that tear through the air like dull machetes.
David First starts the year off with a bang, releasing those previously unreleased (and probably unheard) recordings from his year at Princeton. There’s a wide range of styles here, from the proto-Merzbow sounding “Pulse Piece” to the jazz guitar-inflected “Moody,” all of them worth the 37-year wait. Electronic Works 1976-1977 is a piece of history, and one that sounds shockingly contemporary.
Take your time and drift, where one winds up by the end of this album is a very unusual place. The laws of gravity no longer apply, indeed, the very fabric of reality begins to pull apart and you start to question just what exactly it is that you see before you.
While using the “droneworks” moniker perhaps warns folks away who are unable to deal with unwavering musical processes, First’s results are extraordinarily varied and sonically bountiful. http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/Sounds-Heard-David-First-Privacy-Issues/
Particularly exciting and entrancing is the single track that makes up the entire third CD - “Pipeline Witness Apologies to Dennis" - which is spherical in its overtones, airy and almost orchestral; a pure reflection of complex and alluring acoustic-digital harmonies.
Mr. First’s collected “droneworks,” through years of changing equipment and tuning systems, are long and meditative but never static; they evolve as tones well up, infuse themselves into a texture and gradually transfigure it, creating music that’s as spooky as it is scientific.
I’m thrilled that after a long silence he’s got this incredible CD set out, every piece a knockout..If I were a young composer today this would be my Stockhausen...In a sane world, grad schools would be hosting conferences on this music.
Those connoisseurs who treasure their battered copies of La Monte Young's "Drift Study" and go to extraordinary lengths to acquire the music that grew out of Young's early 60s Dream Syndicate group are strongly encouraged to book a table at Dave's Waves right away, since First is quite simply a master chef when it comes to cooking up harmonics. (Dan Warburton)
The Sound Projector
the noises that leap out of the disc and fill up your room are little short of murderous. In no time at all, you're enveloped...to listen is like being suffocated alive. The resonating frequencies start to throb and vibrate right inside your skull...Whether this will have a benign result or a malignant one, only time will tell...(Ed Pinsent)
"Enough", (is) a gorgeous ballad reminiscent of Robyn Hitchcock. When a drum machine and synthesizers take over for acoustic guitar and strings about three minutes into the song, it's enough to give you goosebumps. Like Brian Eno, First seems to find experimental music projects of varying levels of inaccessibility more compelling than pop, even though, also like Eno, he excels at the latter. Songs like "Enough" and "Baby Destiny" make one hope he'll find the time and inspiration to revisit more immediately satisfying, song-based music. (Scott Jacobson)
The subtitle tells you most of it, and with clever allusions to Wm Blake and George Crumb. The title tells more, and First mostly succeeds in being a master of all...the ten-minute opener "When the Blue Sky Divides", rivets me...In a better world, this is the kind of music that would be included on pop radio. (Steve Koenig)
First's upcoming CD, Universary, is full of dance beats imposed over impressively complex-looking tuning charts. (From the other side, the repetitive chord progression from "Pyramid Song" on Radioheadís new disc, Amnesiac, reminds me enough of Arvo Part to spark hopes for a bilateral rapprochement.) If there is a point of success in that direction, First, the master of the unnoticeable transition may reach it before any of us are aware he's there. (Kyle Gann)
*The guitarist and composer David First has been working with patterns and drones for decades, from his minimalist rock with the Notekillers to extended guitar pieces that make the atmosphere buzz with overtones. On his new album, "Universary" (Analysand), he applies his mathematical bent to pop-song structures, topping his layered guitars and kinetic dance rhythms with thoughtful lyrics. (Jon Pareles)
*denotes a highly recommended concert
It knocked me speechless and took me to a distant place. I had to recover my senses - it was quite an education for me in a way no other music listed on this site has been. I heard varying moods of layer upon layer of sound. David used a classic structure of pop song and created something new yet familiar. This is an album that begs to be heard with headphones or an elaborate sound system. It was meticulously crafted with live and synthesized parts, and the result is a brainwave manipulation of its own, perhaps stimulating the pleasure center? (Sherman Boim)
As a singer, First underplays in the manner of Andy Partridge, with a similar jazzy bounce; his lyrics are comparable as well, in their intelligence and elusive imagery. (Robert L. Doerschuk)
*David First is a guitarist with a flair for melody and a neat way of intertwining themes and stories, as proved by his new CD Universary. (Jay Ruttenberg)
*= recommended or notable
*David First is a guitarist and composer who is perpetually fascinated by drones, harmonics and psychoacoustic phenomena. His latest project, Operation:Kracpot, plans to start with live frequencies from brainwaves and Earth's magnetic field and works them into mind-warping minimalism. (Jon Pareles)
*denotes a highly recommended concert
*Guitarist and electronic composer David First's subtle way with drones and other extended tones reveals a musician who successfully controls the barely controllable. He assembles a group that stars percussionists and a vocalist for tonight's meditative soundscape. (K. Leander Williams)
*= recommended or notable
From budding folkies looking for catharsis to pop stars looking for good PR, there will be no shortage of songs inspired by September 11. One attractive entry to the rapidly burgeoning canon comes from David First, a protean guitarist and composer known for his contemporary classical experiments. First lives a mere two and a half blocks from Ground Zero and recorded this pop song at home weeks after the attack. Spirited, uplifting, and honest, it makes a nice candidate for a time-capsule piece about this autumn. (Jay Ruttenberg)
Musicians have not been waiting for commercial releases. In recent weeks songwriters as illustrious as Mr. (Neil) Young and the million-selling country singer Alan Jackson provided newly recorded songs for broadcast, bypassing the mechanics of commercial releases. David First, a New York songwriter, gave away copies of his song "Jump Back" to workers on the site. (Jon Pareles)
What distinguishes this single is the intelligence as well as emotion within its construction. The tempo is medium, the beat is gentle yet steady, and the message broadcasts not over a mob of waving fists but through a stream of innovative chord changes, surprise modulations, and carefully conceived details, "Jump Back" doesn't exactly hit listeners in the gut, but its more rarefied reflection on recent events gets to the heart of the matter with neither pandering nor pretension. (Robert Doerschuk)
This is such an awesome CD. I have really been affected by it since it was handed to me on a subway. I am not from New York, but plan to go there after high school. I just wanted to say that I think it is really cool what you are doing. (Jenn)
For 35 minutes, a heavenly buzz enveloped the group. Its internal structure twisted and churned almost subliminally, but its surface hovered immobile, ecstatic, a womb of writhing tones that sucked us in unprotesting. Once the noise died into silence, a listener yelled, "Play it again!" and I bet if he had First wouldn't have lost an audience member. It crossed the line past which music becomes magic; or if you prefer, the line past which compositional technique become music, a threshold infrequently reached by composers of any era First melted his idea into irresistible vibrations, and gave us the spiritual thrill ideas only get in the way of. (Kyle Gann)
The first of Mr. First's pieces on Thursday showed off his buzzing, shifting microtonal style to good effect; this is music that spontaneously replicates the soundscapes of Gyorgy Ligeti and Giacinto Scelsi in a startling new electric-guitar context. (Alex Ross)
Most of the music was weak. The exception was the sustained, slowly changing slab of dense electronic harmony by David First that was heard with Brian Frye's decelerated alteration of film of a young woman's head in "Parenthesis". As the screen figure turned her face away from the camera and back, and as she registered different emotions, it seemed that she could have been, within her own space, hearing the same music we were: somber, pensive, ample enough to welcome the gradual arrivals and departures of so many notes. (Paul Griffiths)
The only disc my dog has ever barked at. (Kyle Gann)