"Spanish Fighters" is the seventh release from the current incarnation of AMM: Eddie Prévost and John Tilbury. It's also arguably the best. On the first few one could perhaps sense a kind of struggle to "replace" the absent Keith Rowe, or maybe that scenario existed more so in the minds of the listeners. By the point this recording was made in 2012, however, the pair operates as a seamless and wonderful unit.
It's a relatively brief affair, clocking in around 37 minutes, which lends a degree of concision to the date that had been occasionally lacking on prior recordings by the duo. The music also occupies a consistent psychic space — quiet and contemplative but at the same time, troubled. Recorded at Španski Borci ("Spanish Fighters") in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Prévost and Tilbury take the site's nominal derivation to heart, thinking of the anti-fascist soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, a preoccupation that seems to tinge the atmosphere here, rendering the sounds bleak, dark and subdued. The elements aren't new; Prévost engages in a good deal of cymbal bowing and Tilbury spends substantial time investigating the piano's innards. But the components, after first blush, have never been the essential matter of AMM, now or then — it's about their deployment, the choices made, when to play or not play and with what weight. Here, nothing is superfluous, everything is of a piece, allowing the mood to sustain for the duration, absolutely stunning, creating a vast span of colors shifting across the sonic plain, even if tinged with gray of wartime smoke and destruction. When, several minutes from the performance's conclusion, Tilbury conjures up some extraordinarily delicate and gorgeous sounds from the keyboard, there's a sense of momentary deliverance, of a victory, however ephemeral, on the part of those fighters 80 years ago.
"Spanish Fighters" is a very, very fine recording, providing ample evidence of a continued and profound creativity from two of the music's greatest practitioners.
review by Brian Olewnick