The three improvisations on this album are duets between Jennifer Allum on violin and Ute Kanngiesser on cello, and were recorded in a church bell tower, each in a different room. This is as avant-garde as it can be, with both instruments exploring well beyond the boundaries of their instruments, with the bells chiming in, and inspiring the musicians, as do other ambient sounds such as outside traffic, the siren of an ambulance or the ticking of the church clock mechanism (I think).
First assembling in 1965, AMM is likely the longest running group in improvised music, though that near half-century is marked by dramatic changes, both in musical content and membership. Its constants through that time have been the percussionist Eddie Prévost and a commitment to improvised music built on close listening. Since 1980 the group's most frequent form has been the duo of Prévost and pianist John Tilbury.
Turn to a handy online dictionary and you find a definition of place as:
Noun – A particular portion of space, whether of definite or indefinite extent; space in general (time and place)
Verb (used with object) – To put in the proper position or order; to put or set in a particular place, position, situation, or relation.
Time is an essential aspect of any musical performance. The character of a groove shifts when you push against or play behind the beat; suspense is built or squandered through duration. What is swing, but the way we experience divisions in time? In free improvisation the knowledge that players are conceiving the music at the same time that they perform it charges the music with certain meanings. First-thought creativity, responsiveness and he way these qualities reveal a player or an ensemble's sensitivity, fortitude and clarity of thought all come to the fore.
In the best of circumstances, there is a reciprocal evolution that occurs when listening to AMM music. Each recorded performance documents a necessarily brief chapter in the group’s long history, hinting at the myriad thoughts and methods preceding it and at what may follow. The listener, if receptive to this kind of boundary-busting music making, is changed, opened to unimagined sonic possibilities. Place sub. V. affords such an experience, but it does so quietly, eschewing fanfare for pith and tranquility, despite an astonishing breadth of timbre and frequency.
I’ll be honest I didn’t expect to ever be surprised by AMM again. But then, maybe surprised isn’t the right word to use here. Over the last couple of decades I have never failed to be anything but awestruck when placed in front of the music of Eddie Prévost and John Tilbury, with or without Keith Rowe, but maybe I didn’t expect to find myself so struck by a new recording that it left me close to tears, which this new AMM album succeeded in doing on the second of the dozen or so times I have played it so far.