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CHERI KNIGHT ‘American Rituals’

Aug 12, 2022 | Reissue, Reviews

Mantra style oddities and a palpable pleasure of creation

When Jorge Luis Borges said, ‘I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library,’ he probably wasn’t referring specifically to the facilities of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. However, as cultural landmarks go, this campus is hugely significant, even in this musically lauded city – it is the home of KAOS FM, and Bikini Kill formed at the college in the late 80s. Earlier in that decade, Cheri Knight would utilise the instruments of the lending library, and experiment with a multi-track unit, to take her nascent steps in composition and recording. Better known in later years for her forays into alt country as a solo performer, and as the bassist/vocalist of Blood Oranges, these embryonic recordings are in stark contrast.

Knight’s voice takes centre stage for a series of mantra style oddities. Whether you hear hidden depths or not as the simple phrases are looped and layered, you’ll still be struck by the palpable pleasure of creation. When instruments are added, they’re in a clipped staccato fashion with guitar, bass, piano, chimes, and a myriad of rhythms all in the mix.

The source of a zen like calm, which pervades the whole album, could be rooted in Knight’s interest in Buddhism, or a knowledge of John Cage and American minimalism. In addition, her time spent with the avant-garde composer/performer Pauline Oliveros must have had an impact.

It can be a stretch to join the dots between this lovingly assembled compilation and Knight’s later musical career. But, as a stand alone release, it’s a fascinating curiosity, and more than a breath of fresh air from a different time, and a celebrated cultural hub.

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