Reviews that mention Keith Rowe

May 14, 2020


20 Years of Experimental Music
FibrrBX 01/Mikroton CD 76-85

Encapsulating two decades of an ensemble’s performing history on disc can be difficult. Spreading the results over 10 CDs can be even more trying and in some cases numbing. Luckily Formanex, the French experimental music trio, overcomes some of these drawbacks by including sounds from 1998 to 2018 that in the main feature expanded line-ups and guests. Still, at points immersing new timbres into the band’s mixture of electronic and ambient sequences merely intensifies sameness.

Intertwining influences from post-punk, notated music, minimalism, microtones and Jazz improvisation, Formanex today consists of guitarist Anthony Taillard, Julien Ottavi, who plays percussion, laptop and electronics and Christoph Havard’s electronics, objects and sometimes alto saxophone. Over the years other players such as Emmanuel Leduc on guitar and electronics, the three members of the British group AMM, especially guitarist Keith Rowe, and the six to 10 musicians who make up ONsemble have played alongside Formanex. MORE

June 17, 2019

Kurt Liedwart/Julien Ottavi/Keith Rowe

Mikroton Recordings CD 68

Mátyás Szandai, Mathias Lévy, Miklós Lukács

Bartók Impressions

BMC CD 254

Ellen Fullman & Okkyung Lee

The Air Around Her

Skivbolaget 1703-3

Martin Tétreault

Plus de Snipettes!!

Ambiances Magnétiques AM 245CD

The Vegetable Orchestra

Green Album

Transacoustoic Research tres 009

Something in the Air: Unusual Instruments Help Create New Sorts of Improvisations

September 26, 2018

John Tilbury/Keith Rowe/Kjell Bjørgensen

SOFA 563


Unholy Elisabeth

Al Maslakh Records 21

Practically alone at one time as participant in improvised music from the notated music realm, British pianist John Tilbury is one of the foremost interpreters of the works Moron Feldman, John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. Yet Tilbury, who is also a teacher with distinguished academic credentials, was also a member of the free-form Scratch Orchestra in the 1970s and since that time has kept a hand in both genres most notably as a member of London-based AMM since 1980. MORE

July 16, 2018

Keith Rowe

By Brian Olewnick
powerhouse Books

By Ken Waxman

Brian Olewnick is an excellent record reviewer. This nearly 500 page volume devoted to the life and music of British table-top guitarist Keith Rowe demonstrates his skill in that specialized genre by frequently offering well-though-out and insightful reviews of many sessions featuring Rowe or the ensemble with which he became well-known: AMM. While this analysis of sessions released and unreleased, plus live encounters is an important addendum to any analysis of European Free Music since 1960, it often appears to takes the place of more erudite observations in the book. MORE

November 11, 2016

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury

enough still not to know
SOFA 548

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms

Weekertoft 1-4

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations


NotTwo MW938-2

Mats Gustafsson’ Peace & Fire

At Porgy & Bess

Trost Records TR 140

Something In The Air: Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity

By Ken Waxman

When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and table-top guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on-and-off for 40 years. MORE

October 16, 2016

Keith Rowe/Martin Küchen

The Bakery
Mikroton CD 46

Fellow travelers on the more outré edge of improvised music, veteran Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen and even more venerable British guitarist Keith Rowe rarely cross paths and record together even less frequently. The Bakery captures one of those occasions and while the 35-minute concert preserves some otherworldly sounds the unwary should be aware that this bakery produces the equivalent of jagged unleavened slices rather than sweetened, sugary jelly doughnuts.

Replete with plenty of silences, the two tracks baked by Rowe, best known for his affiliation with AMM, and Küchen, who has played with figures ranging from Steve Noble to Joe McPhee, rely very little on the sonic shapes one would expect from their respective instruments. With Rowe’s table-top guitar altered with preparations and add-ons and modified with electronics, and textures from his radio plus iPod more prominent than alto and baritone saxophone timbres on Küchen’s part, this CD would never be mistaken for a session with Paul Desmond and Jim Hall. Instead the segmented wiggles, clatters, buzzes and echoes often could be a sound replication of what transpires on the floor of an industrial bakery. Some textures could some from a steel dolly loaded with clanking trays of material shoved across an unfinished warehouse floor. Away from physical properties, heightened processed impulses are more prominent than sporadic string plinks or flat line reed overblowing as well. The climax of the first track in fact comes when sizzling electronic impulses become almost overpowering in their intensity. MORE

November 11, 2015

Beyond Jazz: plink, plonk & scratch; the golden age of free music in London 1966-1972

By Trevor Barre
Compass Press

Out of Nowhere, The Uniquely Elusive Jazz of Mike Taylor

By Luca Ferrara

Gonzo Multimedia

By Ken Waxman

A succinct, personal, opinioned and ultimately insightful volume about the so-called First Generation of British Free Musicians, Beyond Jazz is first-time author Trevor Barre’s crisply-written, well-informed overview of the scene during those crucial seven years. A little too young and living elsewhere in the U.K., to have participated in most of the seminal London-based performances of that era, Barre’s turned to contemporary journalism, some academic studies and most importantly correspondence with 21 Free Music mover and shakers to fill out the story. Out Of Nowhere, the Uniquely Elusive Jazz of Mike Taylor is an exhaustive near hagiography tracing the brief career of a British pianist whose career began and ended in the 1960s and whose particular music and short life characterized all that was good and bad about the improvised and overall music scene during that representative decade. MORE

March 28, 2015

Keith Rowe/Ilia Belorukov/Kurt Liedwart

Intonema int 011

Keith Rowe/Alfredo Costa Monteiro/Ilia Belorukov/Kurt Liedwart


Mikroton CD 32

Far out literally, to the extent that the nucleus of contemporary music isn’t Russia; and sonically, since the four players involved work on the periphery of electro-acoustics; these densely programmed discs offer insight into unique post-instrumental improvisations, with a total of four tracks that are almost relaxing in their formlessness.

Recorded two days apart in St. Petersburg, the sessions resulted after local Ilia Belorukov, who plays prepared saxophone, and Moscow-based electronics manipulator Kurt Liedwart invited British guitarist Keith Rowe and Barcelona-based microtonal accordionist Alfredo Costa Monteiro to participate in some Russian gigs. Contour’s second track feature the interaction of all four, both Tri tracks involve Belorukov, Liedwart and Rowe; whereas only Rowe and Costa Monteiro on featured on Contour’s aptly named “Two”. MORE

March 28, 2015

Keith Rowe/Alfredo Costa Monteiro/Ilia Belorukov/Kurt Liedwart

Mikroton CD 32

Keith Rowe/Ilia Belorukov/Kurt Liedwart


Intonema int 011

Far out literally, to the extent that the nucleus of contemporary music isn’t Russia; and sonically, since the four players involved work on the periphery of electro-acoustics; these densely programmed discs offer insight into unique post-instrumental improvisations, with a total of four tracks that are almost relaxing in their formlessness.

Recorded two days apart in St. Petersburg, the sessions resulted after local Ilia Belorukov, who plays prepared saxophone, and Moscow-based electronics manipulator Kurt Liedwart invited British guitarist Keith Rowe and Barcelona-based microtonal accordionist Alfredo Costa Monteiro to participate in some Russian gigs. Contour’s second track feature the interaction of all four, both Tri tracks involve Belorukov, Liedwart and Rowe; whereas only Rowe and Costa Monteiro on featured on Contour’s aptly named “Two”. MORE

October 6, 2014

Rick Reed/Keith Rowe/Bill Thompson

Shifting Currents
Mikroton CD 17/18

An installation as well as a performance of improvised electronic music, Shifting Currents preserves musicians’ differing sonic responses to real-time remixes of field recordings issuing from audio speakers which surround the players. Although there are several instances of protracted electromagnetic noodling that may fascinate software designers more than listeners, the melding of sound manipulations from four-sources plus real-time instruments intrigues when all elements lock into place. Acceptance of the concept’s parameters increases satisfaction with this two-CD set. MORE

July 1, 2012

Keith Rowe & John Tilbury

E.E. Tension and Circumstance
Potlatch Records P311

While it’s evident that three into two won’t go, the situation is a bit more fluid when it comes to improvised music. Case in point is this Paris concert by guitarist Keith Rowe and pianist John Tilbury, who for a quarter of a century – before Rowe disassociated himself from the group – made up two-thirds of the venerable AMM improvising ensemble.

That’s why E.E. Tension and Circumstance is so surprising. For besides showing what the guitarist and pianist can do on their own, the performance includes strands of percussiveness among the pregnant pauses, oscillating static and parsimonious tones which issue from both players. If the absence of AMM percussionist Eddie Prévost – who is after all the most discreet of drummers – wasn’t noted, it was appear that the classic trio was actually present. MORE

October 10, 2011

Festival Report:

Météo Music Festival August 23 to August 27 2011
By Ken Waxman

Météo means weather in French, and one notable aspect of this year’s Météo Music Festival which takes place in Mulhouse, France, was the weather. It’s a testament to the high quality of the creative music there that audiences throughout the five days were without exception quiet and attentive despite temperatures in non air-conditioned concert spaces that hovered around the high 90sF. More dramatically, one afternoon a sudden freak thunderstorm created an unexpected crescendo to a hushed, spatial performance, by the Greek-Welsh Cranc trio of cellist Nikos Veliotis, harpist Rhodri Davies and violinist Angharad Davies, when winds violently blew ajar the immense wooden front door of Friche DMC, a former thread factory, causing glass to shatter and fall nosily. MORE

November 6, 2010

HumaNoise Congress #22 Wiesbaden, Germany

By Ken Waxman
All About Jazz New York November 2010

Midway through the first evening’s performances at the 22nd HumaNoise Congress (HNC), which occurs annually in Wiesbaden, Germany, just west of Frankfurt, one particular set provided a visceral illustration of the three-day festival’s challenges and attainments. HNC, which took place this year from September 24 to September 26, always throws together improvisers in different-sized ad hoc groups to see what develops.

In this case the line-up encompassed Czech-German cellist Jan-Filip Ťupa, German pianist/violinist Helmut Bieler-Wendt, Japanese-born, Pennsylvania-based percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, British table-top guitarist Keith Rowe and Wiesbaden’s Ulrich Phillipp on bass and live electronics. Rather than the dulcet chamber-like tones that would be expected from such a string-heavy ensemble, the results were discordant, staccato and definitely percussive. Only occasionally did Bieler-Wendt pluck and strum the piano’s internal strings. Instead he rapped on the instrument’s wooden sides and fallback as well as frequently and silently moving the cover up-and-down. Meanwhile Nakatani’s commonly used a mallet to hammer on a ride cymbal which was also scraped on the skin of his floor tom; he also blew noisily through a hole cut in the middle of a mini-cymbal and tongued the top of his snare skin. Even the cellist – who usually performs in contemporary music groups – contributed to the hubbub with jagged runs exacerbated with the vibrations from a second bow shoved horizontally behind his strings. Rowe added a steady drone throughout, and the piece’s conclusion was eventually signaled by a pseudo-processional march played on the keyboard by Bieler-Wendt. MORE

November 1, 2010

Martin Küchen/Keith Rowe/Seymour Wright

Additional Notes
Another Timbre at29

About the furthest sonic distance that can be imagined from a standard guitar and two saxophones CD, this noteworthy session is mostly concerned with the matchless musical magnificence that can result from the juxtaposition of unique and unexpected timbres.

British guitarist Keith Rowe, who appears at the Music Gallery on November 30 in the company of two different, string-playing sound explorers, has for years been investigating the possibilities of the electric table-top guitar prepared with add-ons and gizmos. What he does with dual alto saxophonists Martin Küchen and Seymour Wright here is subvert the expected sound of his instrument – and theirs. Radiating outwards an inchoate collection of broken chords, ratcheting strings and grinding friction, he alternately supplements or showcases the saxophonists’ tongue-stopped squeaks and shrills. Snatches of static-laden music or verbal phrases he serendipitously locates on an affiliated short-wave radio help convert this one improvisation into a constantly surprising, layered narrative, replete with concentrated drones and pulsed timbral flutters. MORE

April 10, 2006

Abs (.) Hum

No Heroes
Tiramizu Triacd

Nu Bop Records


The London Electric Guitar Orchestra
Sticks and Stones
2:13 Music

Jozef van Wissem
Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

By Ken Waxman
April 10, 2006

Strings in multiples sets are the focus of these CDs, which match electronics to traditional instruments in programs that in most cases could only be created in the 21st Century. Featuring musicians from five European countries and the United States, they also suggest that globalism can be beneficial – when it involves sounds rather than commercial trade. All the discs feature strings manipulated in different fashions, although the majority of musicians are playing some variation of the world’s most popular string set – the guitar. MORE

January 19, 2004


Fibrr 006

Not for the dilettante nor the electro-acoustic faint-of-heart, this nearly 46 minute slab of semi-improvisation can be an unsettling experience if you come to it with explicit jazz, classical or even free music expectations.

Based around a 193-page graphic score of numbers, shapes and symbols of exquisite intricacy by British composer Cornelius Cardew, (1936-1981), Treatise, developed between 1963 and 1967, contains no explicit instructions about how to perform the work. Every performance can be different, though it’s possible that some who have heard it other times may not be prepared for the unyielding electronic tones that arise during this performance. Most upsetting are the harsh, ear-splitting textures that arise from either electric guitar or electronic distortion and reverberate for up to 40 seconds at a time. MORE

June 3, 2003


Blue Chopsticks BC 11

Potlatch P302

Differences between noise and resonance, silence and stillness are explored on these recent examples of EuroImprov. Coming from either side of the quiet/discord continuum, the CDs manage to prove that each auditory position is as legitimate as the other. It just depends how the sound atoms are manipulated.

On OFF-ROAD Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, a master of the post-Ayler shrieks hooks up with American post-rock instrumentalist David Grubbs and -- on three tracks -- countryman turntablist Henry Moore Selder to produce noise essays bisected with quiet paragraphs. THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A FISH showcases degrees of stillness and freak intonation produced by British guitar and electronics manipulator Keith Rowe, French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda and Swiss-born, Paris-domiciled Urs Leimgruber on soprano and tenor saxophones MORE

April 26, 2002


Matchless MRCD46-CD

Suddenly (for them) speedy as Winter Olympic skaters, the members of AMM have released a CD less than a year after their most recent one. Remarkable for a band that often goes years between sessions, the three grand old men of BritImprov must have thought this session recorded in May 2001 in Vendoeuvre-les-Nancy, France was pretty special.

It is, but perhaps not in the way they heard it. The AMMers -- guitarist Keith Rowe, pianist John Tilbury and percussionist Eddie Prévost -- always present a problem for those trying to write about them, because their performances, both live and on record, are so much of a whole. Like René Magritte’s paintings or James Joyce’s prose each artistic statement is unequivocally linked to the band’s overall oeuvre, but enigmatically unique. FINE is more than fine because the musicians abandon the median intonation of the last disc for sections that are not only subterraneously hushed -- an AMM trademark -- but clamorous as any industrial noise band maximizing its amplification. MORE

September 10, 2001


Tunes Without Measure or End
Matchless MRCD44

Very few musicians -- or artists of any kind -- have been able to create a sphere so self-contained that it's not linked to any other timbre. And few have also made that one instantaneously recognizable. Yet AMM, the British improv group, did so when it first recorded in 1966, and has been refining this conception on record and in person ever since.

This new CD is thus not only the band's first disc to be released since 1996's BEFORE DRIVING TO THE CHAPEL … but it's also another metaphoric chapter in what could be termed the book of AMM, adding more distinctive information to the group's unique oeuvre. MORE

October 19, 2000


Dark Rags
Potlatch P 200

Nearly 40 years after Parker, as part of the Spontaneous Musical Ensemble, and Rowe in AMM, separately began creating unique improvisational languages, they've finally recorded as a duo.

For men on either side of 60 the dictum that "free jazz keeps you young" must be true, for the result is as engaging and thought-provoking as anything the two have produced during their long careers.

Of course there are still those, including Parker and Rowe at different times of their lives, who would argue against labeling DARK RAGS jazz. Maybe it isn't, but even if you ignore the musically historical meaning of "rags", it's also a truism that sounds like this couldn't exist without jazz.