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The Watchful Ear

So another year, another AMM album review, or so it feels… It is of course probably inevitable that I would like Uncovered Correspondence – A postcard from Jaslo quite a bit (it in fact pushes Trinity hard as the best post-Rowe AMM album yet) simply because it features two of my favourite musicians in the world, but is there anything new to write about this music? What can I add that I haven’t written in previous reviews?

Well as they say, AMM album reviews are as alike or unalike as trees (sorry!) so my words will sound familiar. The familiarity of this music though (and it is certainly very familiar to me) does not make it bad music at all. That we know how Prevost and Tilbury worked together, that we understand the dynamics, the delicacy, the fine balance in the music already just leads us to appreciate its beauty all the more. Uncovered Correspondence then, is as archetypal a duo AMM disc as you can imagine. Tilbury plays in an utterly beautiful manner, mostly tonal, but percussive here and there as well as touching a few points in between. Prevost focusses mostly on bowed metals- handheld cymbals and bowls and a tam tam I suspect, and the music talks and sings out in the language we have come to know, and many of us love.

What makes Uncovered Correspondence so good then is that just about every second feels just right. There are noisy aggressive sections, though not too many, and there are plenty of quiet, thoughtful periods, but nothing feels out of place, it all seems to fit and flow together wonderfully. The music has a calmness to it for much of the time, a spare, light quality that seems to use just enough sound to create the music and no more. Prevost is on real form here, letting his metals sing out in an often very pure manner, with the decaying tones caught beautifully on what is a nice recording of what feels like an intimate, intense performance. Tilbury is just Tilbury - stunningly beautiful in everything he does, both inside and outside of the piano, but it is the combination of the two of them that makes this album work so well. The three pieces have a simple, airy almost poetic feel to them. The third of the three ‘Paragraphs’ that the album is divided into is extraordinarily beautiful, blooming out into grand swathes of drama but then disappearing into highly charged near-silences.

Perhaps a slightly crass observation, but AMM shorn of Rowe have a vaguely Eastern feel to the music, perhaps because they always remind me of the wonderful Such album made by Prevost, Tilbury and Yoshikazu Iwamoto some thirteen years ago now, but perhaps because the music, now bereft of Rowe’s drones and electronic interference sounds lacks the feeling of linearity that the trio AMM had, and so when the musicians make a sound here, it dies into silence rather than into Rowe’s backgrounds. So somehow the music feels more elemental, stripped down and calm. It even feels slower in some way, though I doubt that it actually is.

Uncovered Correspondence sounds like the duo form of AMM finally moving past the issue of what to do without Rowe now. It feels confident, fully formed, and is purely the result of two good friends and wonderful musicians working together as they know how. In an interview earlier this year Tilbury said that he thought it was probably too late now for AMM to be taken off into another new direction by adding a further permanent member, and so the duo seem left to refine what they have, enjoy the experience of playing together, occasionally adding guests maybe but ultimately producing increasingly more beautiful music in a similar vein. For many this just won’t be enough, but for me, I am more than happy to just return to music this beautiful time and time again. If these musicians were twenty years younger then yes accuse them of stagnation but for now they have reached a state in their playing together that most musicians will never achieve, and recordings of them together, and in particular recordings of them as good as this one are a joy to behold.

Richard Pinnell
26 December 2010