Proofs & Refutations

DC 759LP DC 759LP

2024 repress. "Recorded in 1995 and 1996, mostly in John Fahey's room at a Salem, Oregon boardinghouse, the performances on Proofs and Refutations prefigure the ornery turn of the page that marked Fahey's final years, drawing another enigmatic rabbit from his seemingly bottomless musical hat. Cloaked in the language of dogma, this is Fahey dancing a jig in the Duchampian gap, jester cap bells a-jingling. Right out of the gate, Fahey re-materializes before us, somewhere between Oracle of Delphi and Clown Prince at Olympus. Mounting a thundering dialectic from on high, 'All the Rains' resembles nothing else in his extensive discography -- betraying roots in everything from Dada to Episcopal liturgical chant -- and contains nary a plucked guitar note. When the lap steel of yore appears on 'F for Fake,' it serves more as soundbed for an extended sequence of vocal improvisations, running the gamut from wordless Bashoian caterwauling to free-form (but decidedly fake) Tuvan, even revealing a burnished falsetto in the process. Fahey takes on a different kind of provocation in the two acoustic guitar-based tracks closing Side 1 -- 'Morning' parts 1 and 2 -- the first of four recordings in this session that have him wrestling with the ghost of Skip James, perhaps Fahey's effort to wrench the 'bitter, hateful old creep' (his words) back into the grave. Anchoring Side 2 is the two-part 'Evening, Not Night,' the second half of his extended cathexis on James. The opening and closing pieces again feature Fahey's guitar as drone soundbed -- employing distortion, oscillation, and an altogether absurd quotient of reverb to create texture and harmonics that are --if we wanna go there -- not dissimilar to the sustained tonic clusters of Tibetan singing bowls, the hurdy gurdy, Hindustani classical music, or La Monte Young. Portions of this material appeared on obscure late '90s vinyl in the 7" or double-78 rpm format, but as a 'session' it has lain dormant more than a quarter century now. Taken together, we can now see these tracks as secret blueprints to latter-day Fahey provocations, several years prior to records like 1997's City of Refuge and Womblife."