On Friday, proto-synth innovator Allen Ravenstine will release his new album, Waiting for the Bomb
, on fellow Pere Ubu alumni (and Henry Cow founder) Chris Cutler's label Recommended Records. The English composer and musician thinks highly of the release.
"In this unusual recording, he arrives at a hybrid musical form that is more or less without precedent," says Cutler, who calls it “discursive, digressive and disrupted by generic and emotional shifts,” in a press release.
Ravenstine's career began when his composition Terminal Drive
(reissued last year on Smog Veil Records) led him to become a founding member of the Cleveland art punk band Pere Ubu.
Ravenstine met the members of Ubu when he lived downtown at 32nd St. and Prospect.
“There were some guys living there who knew about the music I was doing,” says Ravenstine in a recent phone interview. “I had one piece of music I had finished that I was proud of called Terminal Drive
. I played it for some people at the apartment. As a result of that, I got invited to join Pere Ubu.”
Ravenstine didn’t enjoy playing live, but he still toured for a short time with Pere Ubu.
“I enjoy being in the studio much more than touring,” says Ravenstine. “I always tell people that if they went with me one time, they’d never want to do it again. When we were touring, the Cold War was still going on. The Iron Curtain was still a real thing back then, and we got to play behind the Iron Curtain, and I got to see a lot of things that I would have never seen, and I’m grateful for that, but it’s grueling.”
By the early 1990s, Ravenstine quit working as a professional musician and became a commercial airplane pilot.
“I was an airplane junkie since I was a kid,” he says. “The first airplane ride I ever took was in 1955 on a Lockheed Constellation when I went from Cleveland to Miami. I loved it and always wanted to do it.”
A few years ago, keyboardist Robert Wheeler contacted him about being in the documentary film I Dream of Wires
. The two performed together, and Wheeler subsequently sent Ravenstein a synthesizer as a Christmas present. That put Ravenstine on the path of recording again.
In 2016, he released The Pharaoh’s Bee
and began writing and recording Waiting for the Bomb
. He took the audio files to Grant Avenue Studio in Hamilton, Ontario where he added percussion and trumpet. Songs such as the title track feature a mixture of spoken vocals, eerie synthesizers and rattling percussion, making the disc sound like the soundtrack to a vintage sic-fi flick.
“We had two batches of music and one was abstract and ambient, but I wanted them to come together,” says Ravenstine, who says he’s currently at work on another album. “My hope for the record is pretty simple. It’s like if I wrote a book. I would hope that each page would make be good enough to make you want to read the next page, and I’d really like it if after that you’d want to read it again.”