Saturday, July 26, 2008

The United States of America - The United States of America (1968)

Despite releasing only one LP, the United States of America was among the most revolutionary bands of the late '60s — grounded equally in psychedelia and the avant-garde, their music eschewed guitars in favor of strings, keyboards and haunting electronics, predating the ambient pop of the modern era by several decades. The United States of America was led by composer and keyboardist Joseph Byrd, a Kentucky native raised in Tucson, Arizona; there he appeared with a series of rock and country bands while attending high school, subsequently playing vibes in a jazz outfit as a student at the University of Arizona. Despite winning a fellowship to study music at Stanford, Byrd instead relocated to New York, intrigued by the avant-garde experiments emerging from the city's downtown music scene; there he began earning international notoriety for his own compositions, at the same time working as a conductor, arranger, associate producer and assistant to critic Virgil Thomson.

Byrd eventually returned to the west coast, accepting an assistant teaching position at UCLA and moving into a beachfront commune populated by a group of grad students, artists and Indian musicians. He soon began studying acoustics, psychology and Indian music, but quickly turned back to experimental composition, leaving the university in the summer of 1967 to write music full-time and produce "happenings." To perform his new songs — material inspired in no small part by the psychedelic sounds produced during the Summer of Love — Byrd recruited a group of UCLA students (vocalist Dorothy Moskowitz, bassist Rand Forbes, electric violinist Gordon Marron and drummer Craig Woodson) to form the United States of America; the group's lone self-titled LP, produced by David Rubinson, was recorded for CBS in 1968, its unique ambience due largely to their pioneering use of the ring modulator, a primitive synthesizer later popularized by the Krautrock sound.

[Jason Ankeny,]


TDC said...

hey thanks a lot for this - appreciate you putting it up.

Anonymous said...