That Mysterious Forest Below London Bridge
The "09/11/06" that appears in the track titles refers, in accordance with British convention, to 9 November, not 11 September, in case you're tempted to listen to these three austere slabs of English lmprov as a fifth anniversary commemoration of what Stockhausen rather unwisely referred to as "Lucifer's greatest work of art". That said, there is something monumental and scary about the central track, a trio consisting of trumpeter Jamie Coleman, alto saxophonist Seymour Wright and Mark Wastell, putting his tam tam aside in favour of an Indian harmonium. What's striking about the piece is its refusal to play Improv's standard rise and fall game. Wright's bloodcurdling yelps and vicious overblowing are all the more effective given Coleman's reluctance and Wastell's inability (in terms of the instrument, one supposesl to compete. It's as if Classic Guide To Strategy-era John Zorn had ended up on a David Grubbs album and tried to blast his way out, to no avail.
This multi-player session was recorded live at the Shunt Lounge, near London Bridge; the album title is a quotation from John Ruskin, which brings another to mind: "All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into the darkness." The two bookending tracks are less harrowing but no less effective. The opening quartet is a careful and patient examination of how tiny seeds of sound - clucks from saxophonist Tom Chant, plucks from violinist Matt Milton, twangs from guitarist Ross Lambert and clangs from pianist Sebastian Lexer - grow into strange and beautiful plants that occupy the same windowbox without blocking each other's light. It's delicate and subtle, especially Lexer's laptop work and his piano playing, whose feeling for space and touch recalls John Tilbury. It's only fitting, then, that Tilbury's impeccable phrasing and Eddie Prévost's exquisite bowed cymbal work should close proceedings in a 25 minute offering by the latest incarnation of AMM, "Every increased possession loads us with new weariness," wrote Ruskin. When it comes to this album, however, I respectfully submit he was wrong.
The Wire April 2008