Glenn Branca’s first full-length album The Ascension is a colossal achievement. After touring much of 1980 with an all-star band featuring four guitarists (Branca, fellow composers Ned Sublette and David Rosenbloom, and future Sonic Youth member Lee Ranaldo) along with Jeffrey Glenn on bass and Stephan Wischerth on drums, Branca took his war-torn group into a studio in Hell’s Kitchen to record five incendiary compositions. Originally released in the summer of 1981, The Ascension effectively tears down the genre-ghettos between 20th century avant-garde and ecstatic rock ’n’ roll.
On “The Spectacular Commodity,” chiming, shimmering tones unfold into sinister drone-territory à la Tony Conrad, while abrasive guitars and repetitive beats retain the raw primitivism of No Wave. The title track attains a densely packed, larger-than-life sound and (as author Marc Masters says best) “never stops climbing skyward.”
With artist Robert Longo’s stark front cover that depicts Branca battling an unidentified man, The Ascension is a must-have record not only for fans of early Swans and Sonic Youth, but also of Steve Reich or Slint’s Tweez.