Ayaya Moses

Fred Frith Guitar Quartet / Fred Frith, René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky, Mark Stewart

Ten journeys through contrasting topographies, whether rigorously scored or spontaneously dreamed up Downtown Music Gallery, ÉU

This is simply amazing. Everybody’s News (Cincinnati), ÉU

Fred Frith a-t-il encore besoin de présentation? Guitariste et compositeur de grande réputation, Fred Frith a la qualité des grands musiciens, celle d’être un inventeur. Il a choisi de créer en 1990 un quatuor dans lequel les cordes sont au nombre de 24… question de construire un répertoire et de rendre hommage à un des instruments emblématiques de la musique actuelle: la guitare électrique. Sept années plus tard ce quatuor nous présente un premier album sur étiquette Ambiances Magnétiques intitulé Ayaya Moses, avec des compositions de Claude Vivier, Olivia Bignardi et de chacun des membres du quatuor, expressément écrites pour cet ensembe.

Dix voyages sonores, dix odyssées musicales qui calquent la toponomie de la musique actuelle, de l’improvisation aux œuvres minutieusement orchestrées — la quintessence de la guitare électrique! Toute la précision et la virtuosité de cette tradition vénérable qui rappelle plutôt les quatuors à cordes et la musique de chambre que la guitare… aux accents du rock contemporain.

CD (AM 051)

  • Étiquette: Ambiances Magnétiques
  • AM 051
  • 1997
  • UCC 771028105120
  • Durée totale: 54:27
  • Boîtier Jewel
  • 125 mm × 142 mm × 10 mm
  • 90 g

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BLG, Downtown Music Gallery, 1 juin 2007

What more can be said of Fred Frith? As with all musicians and composers of his caliber, he is a relentless inventor. His quartet, formed in 1990, highlights one of the quintessential instruments of ‘musique actuelle’, the electric guitar. Its first CD on Ambiances Magnétiques, Ayaya Moses features works by Claude Vivier and Olivia Bignardi, as well as original compositions by each member, scored for the quartet. Ten journeys through contrasting topographies, whether rigorously scored or spontaneously dreamed up, exploiting the resources of the electric guitar to the fullest imaginable degree, and featuring the kind of ensemble precision and dynamics usually associated with string quartets and chamber ensembles - but with unrelenting rock energy!

Ten journeys through contrasting topographies, whether rigorously scored or spontaneously dreamed up


George Zahora, Splendid E-Zine, 22 mars 1999

Just about anyone with some degree of musical awareness has heard of Fred Frith, right? Mention his name to someone who’s bought something less accessible than the Titanic soundtrack, and he or she will probably offer a glimmer of recognition, however slight. Anyway, on Ayaya Moses, Frith and the other three quarters of his quartet (René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky and Mark Stewart) once again remind the listening public that the guitar is an instrument with six discrete strings (sometimes twelve) that can be tapped, plucked and scraped as well as strummed. The results can be beautiful (the first half of the title cut), harrowing (the second half of the title cut), fascinating ( Trummings, Geco Rettile Mialgico), orchestral (Pulau Dewata) and downright confrontational (The Stinky Boy Suite). Since a lot of neophyte listeners expect nothing but dischord from “avant-guitar” compositions, Ayaya Moses is an effective tool for displaying the sheer range of both the instrument and the genre; yes, there are tracks that sound like the guitar is being thrown down a flight of stairs, but there are far more instances where Frith et al coax astonishingly varied and innovative tones from their instruments. Everyone should own at least one FFGQ album — it’s useful deprogramming after too much 3-chord punk rock, and it’s fun to taunt Teen Punk Rockers with it by confronting them with the fact that Frith is an “old guy” whose music is too challenging for them.

The well-tempered guitarist

Ken Egbert, Tone Clusters, no 68, 1 mai 1998

Our final CD here is from The Fred Frith guitar quartet. The idea of a guitar quartet makes perfect sense, really, if you consider how back in the early ’80s the World Saxophone Quartet, taking a page out of the book describing the string quartet’s structure, decided to write a repertoire for itself (consisting as it did on its inception of jazz giants David Murray, Oliver Lake, Julius Hemphill and Hamiet Bluiett, they had no trouble doing so) as well as to commission works to perform from modern composers. Fred Frith needs no intro, of course, and neither do his fellow axemen Nick Didkovsky, René Lussier and Mark Stewart. The most striking piece on Ayaya Moses is Pulau Dewata, a Claude Vivier piece of bewildering but lovely complexity, combining pure bell-like cadences with busy structure and slipknot-like turnabouts. There are odd bits here that recall the complexity of gamelan music and others that build expertly on the highly structured efforts of 1972-74 King Crimson (Fracture, We’ll Let You Know). No shrinking violet, however, is the opening Ayaya, written by Lussier and combining a sly pop-like opening and some feedback experiments that will make your eyebrows disappear once the shock of the initial wittily shifting structure is swept aside. Olivia Bignardi, an Italian clarinet player and modernist, contributes two tart bits full of interlocking riffs and careful melody, and Frith of course, writes one of his more concise tunes (Freedom is your Friends II). It’s almost a chamber piece for highly controlled feedback, and might at some point show up in a later composition for string orchestra, it’s that plastic. Nobody woodsheds here, nobody shows off, in fact it’s hard to figure who’s playing what from time to time. You’re forced to listen to the totality, to throw your attention wide, and I think that’s a credit to the players: any one of them could have showboated the other three offthe stage, but of course then this CD wouldn’t exist. And that would be a shame. So I hate to disappoint anyone, but the guitar is not going anywhere. These fellows will see to it, and thanks to all of them.

Disc Review

Chris Corner, Everybody’s News (Cincinnati), no 494, 6 mars 1998

This is simply amazing. A bit of novelty, perhaps, with a quartet of electric guitars playing some serious-type chamber music of a rock-style ensemble. I’ll bet the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet is great live—these guys are four of the most outside electric guitar players this side of Sonic Youth, all playing at the same time, sometimes scraping the strings with rocks, whatever, just goin’ to town on 24 strings. Sometimes cacophonous, sometimes brilliantly melodic, this is serious “art” music designed for listening. Sometimes you can party to this record, cuz they jam, too. I don’t know where the compositional process ends and the improvisational parts begin, and that makes the FFGQ listening experience all the more fun. The compositions are credited to all the members of the ensemble, not just to Mr. Frith. René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky, Mark Stewart round out the quartet that dables in rock, jazz and avant garde noise. Some call this kind of music “deconstruction”, but I don’t. The compositions are complex and the melodic material can be difficult.

Some of the most compelling music comes out of quartet settings. Bartok. The Beatles. Four Hand Grenades. If you like your music jittery, academically respectable and action-packed with a cartoon-esque appeal, you’ll dig the FFGQ. Sometimes they take you to the rings of Saturn as well. You’ll have to special order the CD from your local record store, though. Its an import from Canada, eh? So here’s the dope hoser.

This is simply amazing.

Soundcheck Review

Mike Barnes, The Wire, no 167, 1 janvier 1998

Formed seven years ago the Fred Frith quartet finally releases its first CD. The music within is a dazzling display of… well,virtually everything that electric guitars can produce in the right hands. The pieces run the gamut from clean strumming and delicate melody through to blocks of atonal noise and all points in between. The electric guitar was originally, and will always essentially be a rock instrument -at least to these ears- and there’s something of the spirit of rock’n’ roll in this chamber ensemble playing certainly in its energy and hands on and amped up visceral power.

Although ostensibly his group, Frith’s quartet isn’t merely a platform for his ego. The other members René Lussier (who also played in Les 4 Guitaristes de l’Apocalypso Bar), Nick Didkovsky and Mark Stewart each chip in a piece.

The tracks range trom strict composition to spontaneous exclamations. The delicate oriental style unison passages in Vivier’s Pulau Dewata are intermittently broken up by stabs of feral power. The group composition The Stinky Boy Suite throws up huge blocks of noise which sandwich insect scratches and single bent notes. Here, Frith’s trademark strummed brittle chord h sixteenths is laid over what sounds like the three other guitars being dismantled. The hour or so of music is staggering.


Chris Blackford, Rubberneck, no 26, 1 décembre 1997

Debut CD for this current line-up of Frith, René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky and Mark Stewart; compositions by members, plus adaptations of works by Claude Vivier and Olivia Bignardi. A repertoire showcasing the quartet’s adroit execution of sharply contrasting moods and dynamics. Strong soloistic flourishes with intricate four-part writing. The title-track by Lussier is a treat—delicate and aggressive by turns. Tops, though, is Freedom Is Your Friends II meditative enough to be called ‘sacred music’.

The title-track by Lussier is a treat — delicate and aggressive by turns.


Michael Davis, Option, no 77, 1 novembre 1997

This is a period of high visibility for certain veteran British guitarists. Derek Bailey is all over the place, with recent coliaborations on a number of improvisationally oriented labels, and now Frith returns with this magnificent piece of work. He formed the quartet back in 1990 with René Lussier, Mark Stewart and Dr. Nerve’s Nick Didkovsky, but I guess everyone involved has been too busy to get an album out before now. From the first riff, which suggests Philip Glass caught in a revolving door, to the concluding Uruk’s Tablets, their guitars offer arpeggios, shimmering chords, feedback and percussive sounds, stretching the boundaries of the instrument. Everyone contributes material and nobody lets their own stylistic devices get in the way. I can’t imagine a better turn-of-the-century electric guitar record but I suppose it’s possible that Frith & Co. could outdo themselves before 1999.


Art Lange, Pulse!, 1 octobre 1997

Fred Frith is usually found on the fringes of conventional music, like the experimental rock band Henri Cow. John Zorn’s iconoclastic Naked City, and various free improvisational situation. Ayaya Moses by the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet is no exception. Taking its cue from multipurpose quartes like Rova and Kronos, this foursome (Frith, René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky, Mark Stewart) juxtaposes short, scrambling, collage–style improvisations with extended compositions that explore unpredictable colors and textures-like Claude Vivier’s Pulau Dewata, with its Balinese-flavored ostinatos, slashing riffs, and quiet daubs of sound, or the medieval hocket and motet-style layering, sustained feedback and sqawking solos of Lussier’s title composition.


Jean-François Denis, SOCAN, Paroles & Musique, no 4:9, 1 octobre 1997

L’étiquette Ambiances Magnétiques propose trois nouveaux disques, chacun ayant une approche distincte et étant d’inspiration diverse.

Ayaya Moses du Fred Frith Guitar Quartet est électrique et éclectique. La guitare y est contrastée, combinant puissance, masse sonore, distorsion, douceur, sons fragiles et ténus. Les pièces de l’Italienne Bignardi, de Claude Vivier et des membres du quatuor, seul et en formation, offrent une vaste palette d’expression. L’oreille s’ouvre et écoute un peu plus loin.

Je me souviens, de Jean Derome comporte deux œuvres pour grand ensemble. La pièce principale du disque, Je me souviens, un hommage à l’écrivain Georges Perec, est une mise en musique d’un livre de Perec. Ici, on a affaire à 26 courts pastiches de musiques populaires, musiques de danse et de jazz écoutées dans la France des années 60, le tout interprété avec force et délicatesses par le groupe Les Dangereux Zhoms. Les pièces sont enfilés par les propos des musiciens en studio, enregistrées avant et après les prises, donnant un corps unifié au tout.

Les fleurs du tapis, de L’ensemble Pierre Cartier, regroupe huit pièces de musique de jazz. D’écriture somme toute conventionnelle, ces musiques témoignent d’une grande maîtrise tant qu’à l’orchestration.

Par ailleurs, Ambiances Magnétiques lançait récemment une deuxième compilation, Hourra pour la bastringue, regroupant des pièces de ses artistes, et une réédition du disque Le temps des bombes d’André Duchesne.


James Hale, Ottawa Citizen, 27 septembre 1997

Combining guitarists from three countries — England’s Fred Frith Canada’s René Lussier, and Mark Stewart and Nick Didkovsky from the U. S. —to play through-composed music is something quite different.

The quartet’s repertoire is broad enough to showcase the diverse stylistic traits of the players. The austere Frith contributes Freedom Is Your Friends II—all shimmering harmonic overtones—and Stewart chips in a thrashing, heavily electronic Trummings. Didkovsky and Lussier are sonic wild cards; both have extensive rock experience and a penchant for riffs that would sound at home in pop or blues songs. Oddly, the compositions they bring to the group are somewhat atypical for both of them. Didkovsky’s She Closes Her Sister With Heavy Bones is suffused with melancholy beauty, while Lussier’s title song shifts from brooding to brutal without any of the loopy humour he’s known for.

The highlight is a performance of Québec composer Claude Vivier’s Pulau Dewata that allows the four guitarists to range from chime-like percussion to a majestic electric chorus. 3,5/5

Une cuvée magnétique

Mario Cloutier, Le Devoir, 20 septembre 1997

On ne pouvait imaginer mieux comme cerise sur le sundae de cette cuvée magnétique que ce quatuor à cordes qui réinvente l’expression «maîtrise de l’instrument». On les a vus ensemble sur la scène de Victoriaville en mai et en pleine apogée. Les quatre lascars (Fred Firth, René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky et Mark Stewart) jouent une musique ne pouvant devenir chose du possible qu’uniquement entre les mains de virtuoses. Plusieurs moments forts—du rock de Lussier avec son Ayaya Moses à l’émouvant Freedom is your friends Il de Frith en passant par Pulau Dewata de Claude Vivier—ponctuent cette route traversée à dos d’archet, de stridences, de pincements et de feedback. Une musique méticuleuse, improvisée et très écrite, violente et douce, ensorcelante et minimaliste, véhicule d’émotions et de réflexions. D’une rigueur inégalée tout en célébrant une liberté de chaque instant. Un grand disque et de grands musiciens. On en parlera encore dans 50 ans. Oyé, oyé, Montréalais, Montréalaises! Frith vous a compris. Accompagné de ce quatuor essentiel, il vient donner ce spectacle tout aussi essentiel le 5 octobre au Club Soda. L’événement sera le clou du Festival Guitarevolution, organisé par l’infatigable guitariste montréalais Tim Brady. Allelluia!

… un grand disque et de grands musiciens.


SPO, Revue & Corrigée, no 33, 1 septembre 1997

Quatuors de cordes, de saxes, de percussions… et maintenant de guitares électriques! Ce disque n’est pas la premiere tentative mais elle fera date, soyez-en sûrs. Au début du siècle, Edgar Varèse déclarait que le violon n’exprime plus notre époque, en 1997 serait-ce la guitare électrique qui a pris le relais? of course. Ici ça s’entend!

Sons doux, ténus, presque silencieux, mais aussi rageurs, rapides et frénétiques nous palpitent aux oreilles dans les compositions collectives, individuelles ou d’autres musiciens. Frith, Didkovsky, Stewart et Lussier sont grands! La variété sonore est telle qu’une seule écoute ne suffira pas: les pieces sont courtes, ramassées, d’une grande densité et vont bien au-delà des improvisations (certes sympathiques) entendues le plus souvent. Oubliez également le disque Quartets (1994) de Frith, sa pièce ici est bien plus forte. A écouter!

Ce disque… fera date, soyez-en sûrs.


Rock & Folk, no 361, 1 septembre 1997

lls sont quatre, René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky, Mark Stewart et donc Fred Frith à s’être enfermés en studio à Montréal en novembre et décembre derniers pour enregistrer pour Radio Canada, la musique du film La manière des blancs de Bernard Hémon. Les fans de Frith familiers de l’exercice aimeront ces courtes pièces naïves qui, pour monopoliser nombre des ressources imaginables de la guitare électrique (sustain, delay, effets de médiator ou bottleneck), se coulent dans des formats classiques pour les subvertir de façon souvent très provocante. Le tout derrière une apparente désinvolture et avec de plus une vision d’auteur qui tranche avec la manière plus directe et assurée d’un Marc Ribot. Deux pièces n’ont pas été écrites par le quatuor: Pulau Dewata signée Claude Vivier et influencée par le gamelan, la musique japonaise et persane et caractérisée par un emploi abondant de l’homorythmie, une absence de contrepoint et l’utilisation d’une langue syllabique imaginaire, et Uruk’s Tablets, d’Olivia Bignardi clarinettiste membre de Fastilio, du Laboratorio di Musica e Imanine ainsi que de l’Ensemble Eva Kant. Pour fondus de Frith quasi exclusivement.


Michael Rosenstein, Cadence, no 23:9, 1 septembre 1997

For his enlire career, Fred Frith has effectively bridged (or maybe just turned his back on) the gaps between rock, improvisation, composition, folk musics, and anything else that caught his fancy. He has continually forged intriguing combinations and syntheses, whether in his own playing, or in compositions he has written for olhers. Though released under his leadership, for this recording Frith has joined with three equal, like-minded guitarisis for a meeting that draws on antiphonal compositions, free improvisations, skronking guitar blasts and delicate interactions. Compositions by Olivia Bignardi and Claude Vivier, along with pieces by each of the members are woven into a suite-like whole with short collective interludes. The notion of an eleciric guitar quartet brings immediate visions of a bombastic blowout, but each of these players brings both a personal voice and sensitivity to the proceedings. The four effectively wend their way through the 7 pieces and 7 entree acts, moving from intricate counterpoint to slashing bluster with concentrated precision. Each of these players has developed an improvisational voice that blends rock vocabulary and electric squalls with flowing articulations, free electronic abstractions, and a strong Iyrical sense. The centerpiece here is certainly Claude Vivier’s Pulau Dewata. “Vivier is a Québécois composer whose work incorporates massed voicings, insistently repeated rhythms, quirky melodic fragments, and textural juxtapositions for a music that builds elegant structural depth from what seems disarmingly simple on the surface. The four decipher the piece with poised energy, stepping quietly through hushed sections of simple looping, rhythmic paltems that ring like gamelan music, then attack percussive punctuations with chiming vigor. In the hands of these four, the grouped electric guitars move from organ-like, hovering chords, skittering collective interplay, and massed rock squall as the pieces are threaded together, flowing from one to the other. These four are opening up the possibililles for electric guitar through intriguing compositions, thoughtfull improvisations, and keep group interaction.


Jim Little, Hour, 13 août 1997

Composed of René Lussier, Nick Didkovsky, Maik Stewart and Fred Frith, this is one fearsome guitar foursome. Recorded in Montréal in July and November of last year, the material here is mostly original, such as the title track, which ranges from bone-crushing industrial power chords to microtonal minimalism. There are also two tunes by Italan composer Olivia Bignardi and a dynamic arrangemerk of Pulau Dewata by the late Québécois composer Claude Vivier. 3/5


Nicolas Tittley, Voir, 19 juin 1997

Dans les mains de musiciens tel que Fred Frith, la guitare donne vraiment l’impression d’être l’instrument le plus polyvalent au monde. En solo, il est capable de faire trembler les montagnes ou d’évoquer le bruit du vent, mais lorsqu’il est rejoint par ses trois acolytes (René Lussier, Mark Stewert et Nick Didkovsky), on assiste à une véritable orgie sonore où le simple pincement des cordes réussit à évoquer une clarinette, un orgue de Barbarie ou des transmissions spatiales, parfois tout à la fois. A quelques exceptions prés, il s’agit d’un disque plus planant qu’explosif, mais Lussier, seul Québécois de l’ensemble, signe ici un morceau éclaté qui fusionne à merveille les deux extrëmes. 3,5/5

Dans les mains de musiciens tel que Fred Frith, la guitare donne vraiment l’impression d’être l’instrument le plus polyvalent au monde. En solo, il est capable de faire trembler les montagnes ou d’évoquer le bruit du vent…


Rafa Dorado, Margen, no 10, 1 juin 1997

Fred Frith es uno de esos músicos que no necesita presentación. Hablar de él es referirse a la innovación musical en general aparte de ser uno de los más creativos guitarristas de, la actualidad. Y si no, aqui está este disco para demostrarlo.

En torno al Guitar Quartet se reúnen Nick Didkovsky (Doctor Nerve), René Lussier u Mark Stewart, aparte de Frith, claro, y Ayaya Moses es el primer disco tras siete años tocando juntos.

14 piezas de diferentes autores como Claude Vivier y Olivia Bignardi, asi como piezas originales de cada miembro del cuarteto, completan este disco que contrasta partes rigurosamente compuestas con fases de espontaneidad improvisatoria.

La cohesión entre los músicos es tolal, prácticamente se respira la precisión de un cuarteto de cuerda cameristico, pero obviamente con la energia del rock.


François Couture, AllMusic, 11 juin 1996

Ayaya Moses is the first CD by the Fred Frith Guitar Quartet. It was recorded in the studios of Radio-Canada in 1996 and captured the quartet at its early stage. The material found here can be split in three categories. First, there are pieces by outsider composers, the Italian Olivia Bignardi and the Québécois Claude Vivier. These contemporary pieces were re-arranged by the quartet and Vivier’s Pulau Dewata works particularly well, developing around a simple melodic structure into a very personal world. The second category is made of contributions from band members. Each guitarist brought one piece. Fred Frith’s Freedom Is Your Friends II is an excerpt from Freedom in Fragments, written for the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, while Nick Didkovsky’s She Closes Her Sister with Heavy Bones is taken from a larger piece for chamber orchestra. They both contrast with Mark Stewart’s textural Trummings. René Lussier’s Ayaya Moses is the strongest piece, written especially for this quartet and making use of all its possibilities. Finally there are a handful of short collective improvisations arranged in suites. More serious and industrious than its follow-up Upbeat, Ayaya Moses showcases four gifted avant-garde guitarists applying their talent to demanding compositions. Recommended.

Ayaya Moses showcases four gifted avant-garde guitarists applying their talent to demanding compositions. Recommended.

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