David Moss (b. 1949)

Terrain (1980)

  1. Terrain #1 (4:58)
  2. Terrain #2 (2:53)
  3. Terrain #3 (2:39)
  4. Terrain #4 (1:52)
  5. Terrain #5 (4:20)
  6. Terrain #6 (0:57)
  7. Terrain #7 (1:43)
  8. Phrase (3:05)
  9. Talk (5:08)
  10. Tongue (8:05)
  11. Niche (6:04)

Total time: 41:30
LP released by Cornpride, ref. 007, 1980

This is David Moss' first solo LP after he took part to a few collective albums and a duo during the 1970s, all involving guitarist Baird Hersey. 'Terrain' was released on Cornpride, an artist-run label where the Meltable Snaps It (Moss+Cartwright+Lytle) first LPs would appear in 1979 and 1981 (see massive discography here). It seems at this early stage, Moss (born 1949) considered himself a mutli-instrumentist, not only a virtuoso singer. And indeed this record is evidence of a great skill for sound textures, specifically on cymbals and steel drums, which he parallels with beautiful vocal tapestries. Moss is playing a large assortment of percussion instruments of all kind, including many chinese gongs and even some Bertoia sound sculpture at some point (recognizable on tr.#1, 7 & 9), favoring long resonant sounds and contrasting them with short, unusually pitched drumming. To give you an idea, you would think some of the percussion parts on side A comes from Morton Feldman's 'The King Of Denmark' score. Similarly, some vocals (syllables only) sound like exotic birds out of a botanical garden. For a percussionist (Moss studied percussion in the 1960s), there are remarkably few endeavours in rhythm and square beats on this LP and the percussion assortment is sometimes used merely as a tone generator providing pitch for the voice. Playing and singing is mostly sparse, if not minimal, each track using only one or two percussion instruments at the same time. Moss uses multi-track recording to create complex, intertwined glossolalias – a mysterious, non-western web of voices. I think the cover sums it all: exotic color, minimalism and a bird in the drawing. On a side note, this album works remarkably well in conjunction with Michael Snow's The Last LP, that I'm re-listening to these days. 2 highly original composers of idiosyncratic sound worlds.

Liner notes by Continuo
Presented in collaboration with Continuo


David Moss was born January 21, 1949 in New York City. Between 1963 and 1968 he studied percussion at Hartt College of Music and Hartford Symphony with Joe Porcaro, Al Lepak, Richard Lepore. In the following years he took percussion with Tanjore Ranganathan at Wesleyan University and composition with Bill Dixon at Bennington College. From 1971-73 he played percussion for the Bill Dixon Ensemble. Since his education has finished, he performed in many cities worldwide; in 1991 and 1992 he received Guggenheim and DAAD fellowships in Berlin. He has collaborated with artists like Heiner Goebbels, John Zorn, Tom Cora, Uri Caine, Bill Laswell, Olga Neuwirth, Andrea Molino, Luciano Berio, Maya Dunietz, Sir Simon Rattle, Smak and many others.