This CD presents three groups of free improvisers performing on the same night at the Shunt Lounge, an art bar located under London Bridge. It’s a fitting locale for the music heard here, which is both quintessentially English and virtually covert, both in the subtlety of its interactions and in its public presence. Each piece is titled by its performers and its date. The groups all fall within the AMM/Matchless aesthetic, the musicians being familiar from previous Matchless recordings, Eddie Prévost’s on-going improvisational practice and workshops and the Freedom of the City events. Whether the music employs discreet or continuous sound there’s a sense of spacious deliberation. If there’s a pattern to the sequence of groups, it’s reductive, beginning with a quartet, moving to a trio and concluding with a duo.
The first group is a quartet of Tom Chant on saxophones, Ross Lambert on guitar, Sebastian Kexer on piano and laptop, and Matt Milton on violin. Whatever the instrumentation might suggest, it’s initially very close to percussion music: a hammered piano string, a plosive blast on the reed, assorted knocks and electric scrapes from the guitar, an attenuated high-
pitched line from the violin. It moves along with continuous interest, its densities shifting, until it begins to build with a very gradual crescendo before subsiding again into a kind of mediated silence around the 16’ mark.
The second group is a trio of James Coleman on trumpet, Mark Wastell on Indian harmonium and Seymour Wright on alto saxophone, an odd mix of Wastell’s sometimes serene sustained sound and the vocalic yelps that Wright often favors here, though these, too, will merge in the sonic affinity of reeds. Extended techniques are used to the extent of disguising instrumental timbres even in this small acoustic ensemble (Wright can play alto for long stretches without putting it in his mouth). It’s sometimes hard to distinguish saxophone and trumpet.
The final track belongs to the current two-man version of AMM, percussionist Prévost and pianist John Tilbury. It’s not the first such version of the group – Prévost has participated in two-man versions of the pioneering improvisation ensemble with both Lou Gare and Keith Rowe – but it’s the most serene, working here from a series of scrape and cluster to passages so quiet that seem to embroider silence. Much of it is defined by Prévost’s scraped cymbals, an extended, piercing sound that seems to fluctuate between the sonorous and the abrasive by the millisecond. Tilbury articulates with a stunning grace, each note an act of exploration and commitment.
Point of Departure