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Reed, Rick / Keith Rowe / Bill Thompson: Shifting Currents [2 CDs] (Mikroton Recordings)

The trio of Rick Reed on EMS synthesizer, Keith Rowe on guitar and electronics, and Bill Thompson performing live electronics, from live recordings at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (2009) and Stirling's Le Weekend Festival (2009).

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product information:

UPC: 0989055606122

Label: Mikroton Recordings
Catalog ID: cd 17|18
Squidco Product Code: 17362

Format: 2 CDs
Condition: New
Released: 2013
Country: Russia
Packaging: 2 CDs in cardstock foldover
Recorded and mastered by Kenny MacLeod at redblockmastering.


Rick Reed-EMS synthesizer

Keith Rowe-guitar, electronics

Bill Thompson-live electronics

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Artist Biographies:

"tabletop guitarist and painter. Rowe is a founding member of both the influential AMM in the mid-1960s (though in 2004 he quit that group for the second time) and M.I.M.E.O. Having trained as a visual artist, Rowe's paintings have been featured on most of his own albums. After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990s has kept up a busy recording and touring schedule. He is seen as a godfather of EAI (electroacoustic improvisation), with many of his recent recordings having been released by Erstwhile Records.

Rowe began his career playing jazz in the early 1960s-notably with Mike Westbrook and Lou Gare. His early influences were guitarists like Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Barney Kessel. Eventually, however, Rowe grew tired of what he considered the form's limitations. Rowe began experimenting, slowly and gradually. An important step was a New Year's resolution to stop tuning his guitar-much to Westbrook's displeasure. Rowe gradually expanded into free jazz and free improvisation, eventually abandoning conventional guitar technique.

This change in his approach to guitar, Rowe reports, was partly inspired by a teacher in one of his painting courses who told him, "Rowe, you cannot paint a Caravaggio. Only Caravaggio can paint Caravaggio." Rowe reports that after considering this idea from a musical perspective, "trying to play guitar like Jim Hall seemed quite wrong." For several years Rowe contemplated how to reinvent his approach to the guitar, again finding inspiration in visual art, namely, American painter Jackson Pollock, who abandoned traditional painting methods to forge his own style. "How could I abandon the technique? Lay the guitar flat!"

Rowe developed various prepared guitar techniques: placing the guitar flat on a table and manipulating the strings, body and pick-ups in unorthodox ways to produce sounds described as dark, brooding, compelling, expansive and alien. He has been known to employ objects such as a library card, rubber eraser, springs, hand-held electric fans, alligator clips, and common office supplies in playing the guitar. A January 1997 feature in Guitar Player magazine described a Rowe performance as "resemble a surgeon operating on a patient." Rowe sometimes incorporates live radio broadcasts into his performances, including shortwave radio and number stations (the guitar's pick-ups will also pick up radio signals, and broadcast them through the amplifier).

AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost reports that Rowe has "an uncanny touch on the wireless switch", able to find radio broadcasts which seem to blend ideally with, or offer startling commentary on, the music. (Prévost, 18). On AMMMusic, towards the end of the cacophonous "Ailantus Glandolusa", a speaker announces via radio that "We cannot preserve the normal music." Prevost writes that during an AMM performance in Istanbul, Rowe located and integrated a radio broadcast of "the pious intonation of a male Turkish voice. AMM of course, had absolutely no idea what the material was. Later, it was complimented upon the judicious way that verses from The Koran had been introduced into the performance, and the respectful way they had been treated!" In reviewing World Turned Upside Down, critic Dan Hill writes, "Rowe has tuned his shortwave radio to some dramatically exotic gameshow and human voices spatter the mix, though at such low volume, they're unintelligible and abstracted. Rowe never overplays this device, a clear temptation with such a seductive technology - the awesome possibility of sonically reaching out across a world of voices requires experienced hands to avoid simple but ultimately short-term pleasure. This he does masterfully, mixing in random operatics and chance encounters with talkshow hosts to anchor the sound in humanity, amidst the abstraction." "

Some accounts report that Rowe's guitar technique was an influence on Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett: "Taking his cues from experimental guitarist Keith Rowe of AMM, Barrett strived to push his music farther and farther out into the zone of complete abstraction."

Rowe has worked together with numerous composers and musicians, including Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, Howard Skempton, Jeffrey Morgan, John Tilbury, Evan Parker, Taku Sugimoto, Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Fennesz, Burkhard Beins, Kurt Liedwart, Toshimaru Nakamura, David Sylvian and Peter Rehberg.

-Wikipedia (

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track listing:

CD 1:

1 54:21

CD 2:

2 30:30
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"The recordings for the piece were gathered over the course of a year from Huddersfield, Stirling, Aberdeen (United Kingdom), and s'Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands). These were used to create an installation consisting of over 100 tracks that were remixed inreal time during each performance. The set up varied from show to show, sometimes playing through 6 speakers and 3 subs, and at other times, through 12 speakers etc. The performers were positioned at the centre of the audience, who in turn, were surrounded by the speakers from the installation. The performers' only instruction was to improvise sensitively to the sounds of the installation and each other.

Commissioned in partnership with Le Weekend festival in Stirling and Aberdeen's sound festival, Shifting Currents features electromagnetic recordings of distinctive and atmospheric places from each of the three locations, alongside improvised responses from Thompson, Keith Rowe and Rick Reed.

Shifting Currents explores the unstable, unpredictable realm of electricity as a metaphor for the way in which music flows and changes around us. In keeping with the found sound aesthetic of his previous work, Aberdeen-based Thompson has used a stick-on telephone microphone to capture electromagnetic signals and interference, transforming the inaudible waveforms into delicate and harsh sonic textures. He recorded in Stirling's historic Church of the Holy Rude, where the infant James VI was crowned, and in Fraserburgh Lighthouse on the windswept Aberdeenshire coast. In Huddersfield he found inspiration in the university's engineering department.

Shifting Currents receives its premiere on 30 May at Le Weekend before visiting HCMF and sound in November. The former wool blending shed at Bates Mill will play host to a constantly evolving multi-channel installation of Thompson's recordings, with Thompson, Rowe and Reed weaving the sounds into their own musical performances on guitar and electronics.

Keith Rowe has been a key figure in British improvisation since the mid-1960s, when a new year's resolution to stop tuning his guitar set him on a journey away from the jazz he was playing with Mike Westbrook and towards free music. As well as several decades as part of the group AMM, Rowe's career includes the founding of M.I.M.E.O. (who performed at HCMF 2007), and numerous solo and collaborative recordings. The one-time art student's break with traditional playing techniques parallels the innovation of Jackson Pollock's floor canvases: laying his guitar flat upon a table, he incorporates found objects, electronics, contact mics and radio transmissions into his music-making.

Rick Reed shares an artistic background with Rowe, and a home state, Texas, with Thomp- son. After college he moved to Austin and became involved in the city's experimental music scene, making music with synthe- sisers and tape machines, alongside video art and sound installations. Shifting Currents will also pay a visit to the November Music festival in the Netherlands, transmitting the intangible qualities and hidden music of Huddersfield, Stirling and Aberdeen to a new location."-Mikroton

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Keith Rowe
Trio Recordings
Instant Rewards

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