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Review

BLG, Downtown Music Gallery, May 1, 1999

This is the third release from Fred’s outstanding el. guitar quartet, live from various dates on their previous European tour. This is an all - star unit, each member a leader & guitar great in their own right, each one gets a chance to compose a piece, as well as solo on one piece each. What is interesting is that it is often difficult to tell who is doing what, since each of these players employ so many unorthodox techniques to their guitars - e bows, numerous objects rubbed or struck against the strings, various distortion devices, too many ideas to mention here. Nick Didkovsky (from Dr. Nerve) recently played a marvelous solo set at the Knit, he had just gotten off tour with this quartet and he sounded like he had absorbed many ideas from Fred’s long history of influence and extended guitar weirdness. Listening to four e - bows drone together on Fred’s Antaeus is like a somber cello intro, parts soon expand, chatter jazzy grooves, lines intersect, the ghost of Les Paul appears as the pace quickens although there is no studio trickery here. It was Mark Stewart (of the Bang on a Can All Stars) that inspired that last bit. René Lussier’s Tout de Suite rums the gamut from subtle & quirky to short episodes of controlled chaos, always well balanced, textures slowly shifting thin to thick… Fred Frith will tentatively be organizing a three to five day 50th birthday celebration at the Knit in May or June, doing a retrospective of his entire career in music, here’s hoping that his outstanding Guitar Quartet will be a part of this special Frith festival, as they were the highlight of Victo ’96.

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