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Review

Phil Zampino, The Squid’s Ear, 23 mai 2003

The album opens as a sinister laugh cackles and Fred Frith saying “That’s an interesting technique you have there.” The laugh becomes oddly infectious as Tanguay pushes the first improv off with a hearty beat, interrupted by a ruptured duck call, strange wind instruments and distant guitar strumming. Interesting technique is what defines this album, and it’s no surprise that three improvisers of this stature have created a series of works that are dynamic, encompassing, humorous, psychedelic and fascinating.

Guitarist Frith and multi-wind instrumentalist Jean Derome are well known, and equally deserving of such attention is the excellent drummer Pierre Tanguay (Derome and Tanguay are each part of Montréal’s Ambiences Magnetiques collective). San Francisco-based engineer Myles Boise might also be little recognized, functioning here both as engineer and real-time sound manipulator. The musicians are all masters of their instruments and it shows as they pull off a sometimes introspective, sometimes dizzying, often melodic display of ideas. Boise intervenes, subtly shifting the sound quality of one or all of the musicians, panning and manipulating the image of the sound or even chopping the sound out to shake up the listener. Derome here would give John Zorn a run for his money, with a host of saxes, small wind instruments, hand percussions and game calls. He provides the most melodic moments of the release, generally on breathier instruments where he plays with a kind of naivety to good affect. Tanguay is very active, cutting up and holding together the improvisations, and also providing unusual percussive elements and “objets”. Frith is perhaps the most conservative on this session, more often creating underpinnings over which the ideas are developed. The works are neither predictable nor chaotic, and everyone is clearly listening closely as they move into adventurous territories or pull back to let the music surround.

The entire album was realized in one day in a California studio, and one can’t imagine that any alternate takes exist of any of these works. They are as ethereal as they are interesting, and monumental as an almost telepathic display of master improvisers working together and having a good time of it. The music is dramatic, playful, frightening, complex, joyous, thoughtful, accessible and a little bit tilted. All improvisations should be so successful!

The music is dramatic, playful, frightening, complex, joyous, thoughtful, accessible and a little bit tilted. All improvisations should be so successful!

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