Strongly informed by the participants' shared interest in visual arts and multimedia, the music accommodated by this double CD consists of intense improvisations by Sandy Ewen (guitar), Keith Rowe (guitar, radio) and Damon Smith (double bass, field recordings) plus a 42-minute suite of sorts in which Gooseberry Marmalade, a collective of all-female experimenters founded by Ewen, tries its hand at interpreting pieces by Scratch Orchestra, Howard Skempton, Cornelius Cardew and Christian Wolff. The performance comprises several appealing and/or bizarre occurrences emerging from multifarious settings and mercurial dynamics, along with sections where a listener can simply imagine the artists engaged in gestural/theatrical activities, with or without vocalizations or fragments of text to complement the other signals. This is more the audio souvenir of a uniquely "human" event than material to actually study, although Rebecca Novak's contextualizing liners did facilitate our discernment. Those who attended ten years ago will definitely have the opportunity to connect their own remembrance to what is being heard.
From this reviewer's perspective, the sessions involving the Ewen/Rowe/Smith trio represent this set's actual raison d'etre. One of them, called "Compacted Shields" — namely, the whole second disc — was conceived as a spontaneous response to Cy Twombly's artwork, specifically Fifty Days At Iliam. I tried to approach the (reiterated) act of listening as an improviser myself, each time reacting to the sounds through jotted down notes subsequently pruned. A logical analysis of unpremeditated counterpoint so laden with implications was deemed to be entirely unnecessary, if not utterly silly.
Scraping, tearing, rubbing. A harmony of abrasion nourished by resonant bodies.
The contrast between uncomfortable clusters, noisy contacts, awkward kinetics, and the luminescent halos of reverberation materializing every once in a while.
The importance of taking immediate action, whatever the acoustic consequence.
The apparent irrationality of certain juxtapositions revealing surprising symmetries.
Then, the ghosts of meaning. Always lurking, even where there seems to be no meaning at all.
Individual features blurring, the creative rate only raised by mutual understanding. Anarchy is never repressed yet remains lucidly controlled.
Dust and dirt on the ground, picked up with fingers, observed under the sunlight. The ruined seams of old garments still in use. Fashion must not be obeyed.
The stubborn refusal of compromising to the urge of "explaining" unexplainable processes.
Intuition as a deterrent to the memory of what has already happened and is best not repeated.
A massive vibration generating irregular rhythms that couldn't be reproduced by will. Voices of unlikely entities, emitting grunts and hisses, chewing and spitting the logic of "interpretative normality". Sonic protuberances, unsuitable for graphic reproduction, self-equalizing despite the extremism of forms and relations.
A joint autonomy: fundamentally complex, quietly dangerous. Raw substance, sources, colors are investigated; representations of various stages of implicit cohesion are found. Escorted, every now and then, by radiophonic hints to the ordinary everyday from which we should detach ourselves through the untainted impulse of creation.
The definition of timbre no longer matters.
Everything remains shut inside the drawer of the unspoken, yet perfectly understood.
Everything belongs to a barely broken muteness.
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