Recorded in 1995 and 1996, mostly in John Fahey’s room at a Salem, Oregon boardinghouse, the performances on Proofs and Refutations prefigure the ornery turn of the page that marked Fahey’s final years, drawing another enigmatic rabbit from his seemingly bottomless musical hat.
Right out of the gate, Fahey re-materializes before us, somewhere between Oracle of Delphi and Clown Prince at Olympus. Portions of this material appeared on obscure late ‘90s vinyl in the 7” or double-78 rpm format, but as a “session” it has lain dormant more than a quarter century now. Taken together, we can now see these tracks as secret blueprints to latter-day Fahey provocations, several years prior to records like 1997’s City of Refuge and Womblife. Proofs and Refutations is cloaked in the language of dogma -– what is he proving? refuting? –- this is Fahey dancing a jig in the Duchampian gap, jester cap bells a-jingling. True believers? He’s got something for you: an uncompromising vision that you can sneer at or embrace as evidence of his genius. Skeptics? He’s there with you, too: sending up the fallacy of certitudes altogether. Institutions, systems, accepted wisdom. Heroes. Alternative facts, indeed.
Atop lost and found plucks and pickings from the final decade of Fahey’s legendary career sits "Evening, Not Night (Pt. 2)"– sounding as ruthlessly iconoclastic as ever. Here, he wrestles the ghost of Skip James, perhaps to finally force the “bitter, hateful old creep” (his words) back into the grave. He plays with a sense of freedom, aiming for the formative mists beyond the piece at hand, and finding them with ease, in an expansive, unhurried performance.
Proofs and Refutations will be available on LP/digitally on September 8th.