Artist: Soriah
Title: Chao Organica in A Minor
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records
Format: CD
Catalog #: mt105
Condition: new
Price: $10.00

Tracklist Samples
1 Chao Organica in A Minor (A Live Performance by Soriah) Part 1
2 Chao Organica in A Minor (A Live Performance by Soriah) Part 2
3 Chao Organica in A Minor (A Live Performance by Soriah) Part 3


The first 25 come with photoinsert, numbered and signed by Soriah and Markus Wolff (Waldteufel). Ed. of 700 copies in a full color deluxe gatefold sleeve. Like a bolt from the blue, the saccharine rich organ drone sets the supper for this winding piece of esoterica. Take equal parts Messiaen organ atones and the beguiling, echoed baritone moans of a disembodied spirit (with just a dash of pungent myrrh pouring over a cup of the very thickest Turkish coffee) and the environs of Soriah are partially breached. This magnificent choral suite for antique church organ is paired with a second vocal suite for Tuvan throat singing. The bone trembling multi-timbres of Soriah's commanding throat singing crack open and become a cathedral as the rumbling is pulled through a wash of electronic effects. Of chaos is a new religion erected. Soriah's crushing passion play becomes a bombastic bodhisattva that leaves all average messiahs staying indoors for the second coming. Also sprach Soriah! For fans of drone, Mirror, Coleclough, Af Ursin and avant-garde that stands the test of time.
From out of the fir-lined mists of the Pacific Northwest's primordial musical soup is spawned the singular performance and sound sculptor Soriah. Spilling initially from a rock and roll womb, but building on years of intensive studies in Tuvan throat singing and classical Indian raga chanting, Soriah both subverts and elevates tradition by weaving the avant-garde into the ancient. Whether backed by hand percussion, or accompanying himself on organ, or with electronics, or wailing a cappella, a thick, echoing, thaumaturgic atmosphere is carved out of the thin, vibrating air that rushes between vocal chords. Performance is an integral part of Soriah's Choa-sphere. Concerts played in haunted tunnels, from trees, in the desert, in churches and other far-flung venues are more the rule than the exception. Elaborate costumes, often incorporating authentic head-dresses and other tribal garments and totems, are another hallmark. The costumes are worn partly in beatific reverence and partly for the sake of how they move. Soriah's grounding in the study of butoh, yoga and other physically based rituals completes the circle of the experimental shaman; a circle which will continue to propagate as the only constant with Soriah is change. After numerous home and hand made releases Soriah is finally poised to light out into the world at large through his first recording on Beta-lactam Ring Records.

"The processes of the mysterious composer / sound sculptor Soriah are almost as interesting as the strange and otherworldly music he creates. The live performance, the setting, is often a spiritual complement to the composition itself, taking place in haunted tunnels, in treetops, in the deserts, in churches, all adding to the mysterious ceremonial aspect of each piece, as do the extensive costumes, head-dresses, totems, tribal garments, all combined with Soriah's background in Butoh, Yoga and other ritualistic practices, lend his music a timeless and mysterious air. A dark pagan dance of drones and dark ambience. After numerous, super limited, self published and hand made art editions, this is Soriah's first proper release, and it's totally breathtaking. Two lengthy pieces, for vocals, pipe organ and effects, Soriah conjures up a haunting sonic otherworld, drifting, dreamy, menacing and malefic, a rumbling, whirring dark ambient dronescape, thick with the natural timbre of the wheezing pipe organ, and dense with subtle overtones from the various vocals. A deft mash up of ancient classical musicks and modern experimental drone based minimalism, a heady blend of Messiaen, Mirror, Coleclough, Dead Can Dance, Jacula, Niblock, and Eastern ragas. A dusty old pipe organ, built in 1881, lays the groundwork, a rich, thick, multilayered bed, subtle overtones, rich swirling drones, notes and melodies shimmer and beat against each other, creating strange movements, a thick wash of chordal whir that pulses and breathes like it was alive. The organ is intertwined with various vocals, sometimes crooning, alien and operatic, but more often an impossibly low-end rumble, a dense and deep Tuvan style throat singing, buzzing and multilayered, more like some strange long stringed instrument than a human voice. Crumbling and corrosive, but at the same time soothing and ethereal. The vocals drifting through various effects, become smears and stretches that blend and blur into the overall droneworld. Definitely one of the darkest and dreamiest drone records in recent memory, and all the more compelling in that this is not just a simple tone or set of tones, slowly shifting, know this is a rich and vibrant live ritual, you can feel the organ vibrate, the vocals curl around you like some ripe exotic smoke, this music is alive, soft and inviting, but dangerous and dreamlike. A bit like SUNNO))) armed only with church organs, and accompanied by Huun-Huur-Tu, a massive physical drone, a huge deliriously suffocating wall of rumble, like laying at the bottom of a pit, eyes closed, and being buried alive by soft sound. So good." Aquarius Records

"Mysterious overtones collide and swirl, forming double-helix cathedrals of sound. The gothic and solemn voice of a church organ folds on itself, becoming two... three... four new instruments. These layers usher us into an interior space of reflection and transformation. The organ and guttural whistlings of the Tuvan-style throat singing have brought us here. What we do in this space is up to us. These are the musings that arise upon listening to the wonderful new release by Soriah, Chao Organica in A Minor. Soriah is a musician/artist/performance artist from Portland, Oregon. Although he has self-released a number of extremely limited CD-R's, this is his first disk proper, and Beta-lactam has pulled out all the stops. Artist Markus Wolfe (of both Waldteufel and Crash Worship fame) created the bold, pagan-inspired glyphs that decorate the cover. In addition to the black-line art, he extended the theme by creating stamps that are imprinted in gold-colored ink on the surface of the thick card-stock cover. Soriah's art is a combination of Butoh dance, yoga practice, and magick ritual. He creates elaborate costumes from various ethnic clothing and masks. The spaces he performs in are chosen with great care, and include churches, desert dunes, and urban treetops. This combination of musical choices, visual presentation, and atmospheric enhancement make for a powerful experience, and to a great extent these values shine through on Chao Organica in A Minor. The disk is comprised of two main tracks, "Exordium" and "Soliloquy and Epilogue". Each song has several movements within it, but they tend to move towards an opaque wash and delirious blur. The overriding outcome for a listener is a welcome trip through a hypnotically beautiful, yet slightly sinister, soundscape."

"An original Hook & Hastings tracker-action (non-electric) pipe organ originally constructed in 1881 owns the entirety of this record. The chanting, reminiscent of what Native American and Indian chants I've heard bend space-time, revealing an ether of energy and ideas coursing beneath the visible spectrum. Performed live, this album sounds more like a ritual than a product; it is a distinct and meditative experience that pounds down the doors of the visceral and floods the extended world with a pure, white light.


Beta-lactam's website provides an excellent and brief history of the Old Church's unique instrument. Installed in 1883 in Portland, OR, this mechanical pipe organ has seen multiple restorations since the 1960s, but was not satisfactorily restored until 1997. The instrument's voice, a soft and powerful bellow, has thankfully survived over 100 years to make this recording. I always enjoy hearing unique and strange instruments and though pipe organs are not difficult to find, one of this caliber, still resting in the church it was constructed in, is an apparently rare find. On top of that, its sound is distinct from many pipe organs I've heard, resonating with a wooden, hollow timbre unlike the tones generated by electric pipe organs I've had the pleasure of hearing. Chao Organica in A Minor could properly be considered a historical document if it weren't for the unusual chants and didgeridoo-like echoes that spread across its belly. The album is split into two tracks: one over 20 minutes in length and the other over 40. Both tracks are undeniably minimalist in nature, utilizing nothing more than the organ and a solo vocal performance. As much of a treat as the organ is, the vocals are a key element to the performance, lending it a supernatural and religious tone appropriate to the environment it was recorded in. Given the right circumstances and frame of mind, it seems like that supernatural contact could've been made with the help of this performance. Each track generates slow, extended melodies. The focus is almost obviously on the textures that the vocals and the organ produce. It's hard not to think of Coil's Time Machines when listening, but the inclusion of the wordless chants adds a dimension to that comparison that renders it null and void. Far from sounding like an improvised performance, every minute of each track provides carefully constructed moments of brilliance. It's difficult to imagine that this isn't an esoteric recording of a ritualistic performance meant to summon the will and power of every audience member. The music acts like a camera, focusing my thoughts and ideas into coherent wholes. It organizes moments and slows them down, making them visible, available for careful analysis and steady meditation. Around the 22 minute mark in the second, untitled track, near silence falls. A space is opened up for due consideration, for analysis and repose. It's a striking bit of silence that seems to last forever. As the track continues and the faintness hint of organic wind begins to creep over the album, a feeling of renewal washes over the music. It's one of those excellent silent moments in music, where the silence makes just as much difference as the music itself does. The only difference is that, as the album begins, a strange new element strikes me; there are now vocal samples bleeding through the hum of the organ. It is difficult to hear, even more difficult to understand, but it nearly dates the album. Suddenly there is a significance lent to the album. I imagine a sepia toned desert and a plot of land occupied only by a church. The fear of the outside world crowding in around the congregation and a speaker in charge of exorcising all the negative aspects of what lay outside the fellowship's grasp. The album pulses to a silent end, leaving things uncertain, but somehow more bold. The grass and leaves outside look greener, the sky a deeper shade of blue. The world seems to resonate with the vibrations of the album's closing aura, removing this music from performance and fixing it in the realm of pure existence."

"Possibly the most esoteric and odd, but at the same time just about listenable album, to have come my way is Chao Organica in A Minor. Like other releases from the Beta-lactam label this one comes in a slightly oversized digipak with unusual artwork. Apparently Soriah uses only an old church organ (over a century old) and his voice, making this a very minimal drone work which was recorded live at the Old Church in Portland in 2003. I should mention that though the album contains two tracks the second one actually consists of two parts separated by a nine minute silence. Like Tom Heasley's Desert Triptych this album is probably aimed at those with the stamina to go the long haul. And so to the opening track "Chao Organica in A Minor part 1". Dense and deep organ drones with obvious note or chord changes play out in an almost funereal manner while Soriah delivers various vocal utterances ranging from whisperous exhalations to throaty expressions of what could be deep emotional feelings or pain. It's all rather peculiar, as though we're intruding on someone in the throes of madness or just venting primeval emotions. What's interesting is how the organ sometimes goes to extremely low frequencies that are little more than a dull rumble like a distant engine. The second track starts out with throaty vocals which reminded me of Kitaro's World of Music featuring Nawang Khechog. It gets bizarre for a while before settling down to relatively gentle organ drones which lead into the extended silence. The last part sounds like treated organ sounds, beginning with a low beating rumble like a heartbeat and developing into atmospheric vocal effects. Someone looking for a work at the esoteric end of the spectrum may find Chao Organica in A Minor to be of interest. Like many extended drone based albums it can be okay in small doses but continued listening is only for the dedicated."

"Recorded live at the Old Church in Portland, Oregon, “Chao Organica in A Minor” showcases huge church organ and eclectic Tuvan throat singing. Having studied extensively both Tuvan throat singing and classical Indian raga chanting, Soriah is a vocalist that simply must be heard. The album is haunting, engaging, and singularly enlightening all majestically weaved together with surprising clarity for a simple recording technique. You won’t listen to music in the same way again." - J-Sin

About the organ used for the performance:



Between 1872 and 1886 Hook and Hastings of Roxbury, Massachusetts installed five tracker-action organs in Portland. One of these organs was installed in 1883 in Calvary Presbyterian Church, now The Old Church.  This "tracker-action" organ - one that uses mechanical connections, no electricity, to produce a unique pipe organ sound - was hand-pumped.


After installation, the organ was used regularly for Presbyterian church services.  By mid-century, the instrument had lost some of its natural tonal beauty.  Two key ranks of pipes, the trumpet and oboe, were missing, and two others had been poorly altered, thus reducing the musical effectiveness and range of repertoire. Cosmetic alternation to the case included several coats of paint, and perishable parts had naturally deteriorated. An electric blower had been installed around 1920. Fortunately, no mechanical alteration ever occurred.


In 1969 the church building, a fine example of "Carpenter Gothic" architecture, was saved from demolition by a group of devoted citizens. The Old Church Society, Inc., a private nonprofit group, was formed to purchase and restore the building and open it for public use and enjoyment. It was at that time that the organ's historic significance was discovered. Since then, careful records have been kept and ongoing efforts sustained to reclaim the organ for its historic and musical merit. In 1976 the organ was cleaned and a few of its worst problems were corrected.

Photo by Dan Sadler - click on photo for larger image.


Several organs built in the 19th century reside in the Northwest, but The Old Church organ is the oldest Northwest tracker-action organ in its original location. Even more important, the organ never was converted to electricity, the popular practice that swept the country during the first half of the 20th century. The decision not to convert the instrument, most likely prompted by lack of funds and interest, saved the very qualities so valued and rare today.

The Old Church organ is a fine example of the work of Hook and Hastings, a prominent organ building firm in 19th century North America. It has an authentic Victorian-era pipe organ sound and is valued for its intrinsic musicality and as a splendid vehicle for performing a wide range of music, old and new. It is also a treasured link to the past, helping us to better understand the art of organ-building.


The primary space inside The Old Church is the 300-seat auditorium, a warm and inviting space blessed with outstanding acoustics.  The organ is the main focus, standing front and center, flanked by beautiful Povey Bros. stained glass windows and facing a semicircle of curved wooden pews. Since 1969, the public has enjoyed over 700 free organ concerts. Our weekly sack lunch concert series continues to feature the organ regularly.


The organ was fully restored in 1997, in time to be featured at the national convention of the Organ Historical Society, that year held in Portland. This international conclave of organ players, builders and fans agreed unanimously that both the sound and appearance of the instrument were beautifully restored to their original glories. This work was performed by Richard Bond, of Bond Organ Co., Portland, Oregon. Ron Wagner, of R. Wagner Co., Portland, restored the stenciling of the pipes to their original ornate Victorian design, discovered beneath layers of gold paint during restoration.

The restoration involved replacing perishable parts which were not replaced in 1976, and giving the organ a general mechanical adjustment. Missing parts were fabricated and replaced. Some tonal changes were reversed, restoring the original character of the sound. The oboe stop, mysteriously missing for many years, was replaced by an authentic set from a defunct Hook & Hastings organ in Nova Scotia.

With proper maintenance, the organ should function for decades before needing another restoration. If you would like to assist in the upkeep of the organ or the continued restoration and maintenance of this lovely historic site, please become a member of The Old Church Society. Your gift is tax-deductible. Thank you for your interest and support.

Organ Stops

The stop list of the organ, identical to a specification number 11 in a 19th century Hook and Hastings catalog, is as follows:

Great Organ: Swell Organ:

16' Bourdon

8'Open Diapson

8' Open Diapson

8' Stopped Diapson

8' Melodia

8' Viola

8' Dulciana

4' Flauto Traverso

4' Octave

4' Violina

2 ' Twelfth

2' Flautino

2' Fifteenth

8' Bassoon

III rks. Mixture

8' Oboe

8' Trumpet



Great to Pedal


Swell to Pedal

16' Open Diapason

Swell to Great

16' Bourdon