Canadian Filmmaker Robert Fantinatto dedicated 20 minutes to an interview with the two pioneers of industrial electronics, and their choice of the unique EML Electrocomp synthesizer as a performance instrument in Pere Ubu.
Allen Ravenstine was a composer, patron and pioneer of the burgeoning Cleveland arts scene in the early 1970's. As synthesist with Pere Ubu, playing the EML-200 and later the EML-101, he earned international acclaim for his inspired use of industrial sound before retiring from popular music in the late 1980's. His approach to live performance - rejecting the traditional tonal keyboard for an intuitive wash of modulated noise - has been much imitated but rarely equaled.
Robert Wheeler (of Home & Garden) joined Pere Ubu in 1994, playing the EML-101 and a handmade Theremin. He is a relative of Thomas Edison - a birthright that led him to take a leading role in the Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan, Ohio. In January 2010, he accepted a Grammy Award on Edison's behalf.
Ravenstine had left synthesis behind him years before but, with characteristic good humor, he agreed to patch and perform on the EML-200 for the documentary. With Wheeler joining in on his signature EML-101, two lengthy stretches of unplanned improvisation followed. The filming schedule was thrown out the window and the studio stayed open until Ravenstine was forced to catch his flight back to New York City.
Perhaps because the two had never played together before, the recordings that followed have a magical quality; a voyage of mutual discovery in a genre that they had pioneered a decade apart.
At points one or the other musician would leave the room, letting the antique synthesizer fill in his parts until he returned.
Engineer Bob Doidge described the experience as watching "four hands attached to one body." It was virtually impossible to discern where Ravenstine began and Wheeler ended.
Two days of tape were edited into bookend albums of hypnotizing music. A double cd release is planned for the near future. Scraps and sound effects from the sessions were assembled to create a pair of eccentric singles, released on audiophile vinyl.
"This project is the work of two friends with mutual respect and a profound shared intelligence," Wheeler said. "Electronic meditations, musique d'ameublement, imaginary landscapes; there are dozens of ways of describing the end result of this remarkable collaboration. The fact is that you have probably never heard anything quite like it."
The descriptors, 'City Desk' and 'Farm Report,' were drawn from the signature lines of their personal correspondence; an in-joke referencing the not-so-great divide between Gramercy Park and the Homer Page Farm in Milan, Ohio.