Album Review: Bruce Licher — Exploratorium

Bruce Licher is guitarist in post-punk band Savage Republic; that L.A.-based group has flown well under the commercial radar. But they came to my attention years ago when I read about the band in Richie Unterberger’s book. Licher’s solo work is even more atmospheric, as exemplified on Exploratorium. The three-track collection was originally released in an extremely limited edition on mini CD-r (remember those?) in 2006. And the material itself is even older, having been committed to four-track cassette in 1997.

“Peak” has a sinister yet contemplative character redolent of Tangerine Dream, or Neu! without the motorik beat. “Going Home” has a more cinematic quality, with icy synth textures and glacial yet subtly pulsing beat. “The Penstemon Field” is hypnotic and reminiscent of Glenn Branca.

This reissue expands the original, nearly doubling its run time with a 26-minute bonus track, “Number 09.” Clattering, electronic bursts of noise and tape fiddling introduce the epic track. Licher’s method seems to be to set up a sequence and then tweak its character at random intervals (i.e. when the spirit moves him). It’s definitely a musique concréte piece, as the subtle White Album reference of its title hints. “Number 09” stands in stark contrast to the original three tracks, but remains a fascinating (if grating) listening experience. Certainly not for all tastes, it’s worthwhile for the adventurous and/or industrially-inclined.