Point of Departure

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.

Eddie Prévost’s liner notes to this CD references the etymology of the word “place” from the Latin and Greek words which loosely translate as “open space”; a notion that is indisputably at the core of AMM’s music. Their music realizes the term “place” in all of its connotations. There is the musical exploration of space, particularly within the context of time. There is the influence of a particular location which crops up in the titles of AMM recordings (“The Crypt,” “... the Roundhouse,” “... Pueblo, Colorado,” “Newfoundland,” “... Allentown, USA,” “Before driving to the chapel ...,” “Norwich,” “That mysterious forest below London Bridge,” “... a postcard from Jaslo”) Sure, these titles offer a simple tagging of a recording to the location where they were captured, but that notion of a particular location has seemed central to the way that the group has approached making music. Then, of course, there is the way that the setting of sound in a particular “position, situation, or relation” is central to their sensibility. It is what makes AMM music so readily identifiable.

This recording captures a performance of the current core lineup of this venerable ensemble, John Tilbury and Eddie Prévost, from The 2012 Festival of Traditional and Avant-garde Music in Lubin, Poland. It has been a decade now since Keith Rowe left the group and over the course of a handful of recordings in both duo format and with guests, the two have continually refined their approach. With this performance, they have fully settled into a new sense of place. Clocking in at 1 hour, 1 minute, and 1 second from the first dark rumbling resonant piano chord to the final decay of bowed tam tam overtones, Tilbury and Prévost delve deeply into the notion of place as both subject and verb.

Their improvisation develops with a particularly measured poise, a clear intention of the placement of sounds in relation to each other, the acoustics of the hall, and the pervasive underlying ground of silence. Tilbury’s clangorous chords, starkly struck notes, and inside-piano preparations and Prévost’s detailed surface abrasions, pin-point metallic textures, and quavering shimmers of bowed tam tam coalesce, building subtle arcs of tension which open in to pools of dramatic stasis. They don’t shy away from sections of sonority, settling around Tilbury’s lush melodic fragments which are collectively transfigured into mercurial abstraction. At the core is the consideration of place; the way that each sound is placed; the way that the attack and decay of the place of performance shapes the music; the way that the music evolves over time and place. This is music that can only be created by masterful listeners who have played together for years, developing a mutually shared sensibility. Place sub. v. is one of the strongest statements of this collaboration to come along in the last decade of the AMM endeavor.

Michael Rosenstein — Point of Departure, June 2014