Myths and Memories Overview
by Richard Taylor 1993

Conrad Praetzel (pronounced like the salty snack food) has long understood the boundless possibilities of sound,  With an open ear for every kind of music--from Copland to the Cocteau Twins--and a fascination for other places and times, this Northern California instrumentalist has created a musical realm of his own where East, West, present, and past intermingle.  His technique is never gratuitous or trendy, but reflects the inner wonder that drives this very down-to-earth musician.  Myths and Memories is full of Praetzel personality--sometimes playful, sometimes pensive, always engaging.  As Lloyde Barde wrote in Heartbeats (Fall, 1989), "Conrad provides the salt and spice..."

If you've already experienced the first Praetzel collection, Between Present and Past (Scarlet Records, 1989), then you know of his unique ability to fuse modern and traditional elements.  "It has such strong composing," Robert Carlberg wrote of this debut album in Electronic Musician, "that I think it...would stand up under any presentation, whether played by a bagpipe orchestra, ten fiddlers fiddling, or the latest electronic technology."  Besides piling up rave reviews, Between Present and Past was featured on the syndicated NPR programs "Music for the Hearts of Space" and "Musical Starstreams."  It also became a popular addition to the "Wave" and "Breeze" radio networks, and propelled Conrad Praetzel into the ranks of composers like Mark Isham, Steve Roach and John Hassell.

Myths and Memories, Praetzel's second album, is his first release on Paleo Music and was assembled during a period when Conrad returned to archaeological field work after a decade's absence.  With the same painstaking care it takes to poke through the earth's strata for some rare artifact, Praetzel uses the tools of his recording studio to produce the characteristic layered texture of the album's 14 original compositions.  The dust of the digs has found its way into tracks like "Tosawihi", which traces its name and arid atmosphere to a prehistoric opalite quarry site in northeast Nevada.  And in "Cave Drawings", petroglyphs that have lain suspended in glacial silence for countless millennia appear to emerge and flicker, then return to the dimness of prehistory.

As Bach and Stravinski were given to "sample" the dance music of their time, Praetzel pulls up rhythmic roots from around the globe and across the ages.  In "The Awakening", the footbeats of the bharata natyam, an Indian classical dance, stir a slumbering pedal steel guitar that shimmers like the mirage of a prairie schooner sailing over the Great Indian Desert.  We're in Southwest Asia and the American Southwest at the same time--yet there's nothing out of place.  Rai--the urban folk music of Algeria, popularized by artists like Cheb Khaled--resounds in the energetic counter-rhythms of "Caravan of Rogues."   And the haunting "Ashes of Roses" carries an Old European feel that contrasts with the tropical exuberance of "A Whistle and a Prayer".

On Myths and Memories Conrad Praetzel is accompanied by Robert Powell on pedal steel and acoustic guitars, with percussion supplied by Bill Shore on three tracks.  Powell released a solo album, Desert Beach (1990), and has also recorded with Barry Cleveland, Michael Pluznick and Opal Fire. It's Powell who provides the exotic pedal steel lines on "The Awakening" and "Crossing the Horizon," and the contemplative acoustic solo on "Tosawihi". 

Conrad Praetzel takes inspiration from his visual surroundings and like a cubist fracturing the  world through prismatic design, he paints his sound mosaics.   He composes with colors as intense as those that flash from the costumed Bhutanese dancer on the album cover and as subtle as the sombre greys that shade "Crossing the Horizon".  He captures the pounding of the tribal ritual drum and the echoes that dance inside the long-abandoned medieval castle.   With imaginative command of digital sampling and recording techniques, he melds tradition and technology,
Without a word Conrad Praetzel's music speaks volumes about the myths and memories of our planet.