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.

At one point, in fact, Rowe produces a curved shimmering sheet of electronic noise that would make any Goth-metal guitarist proud, while Tilbury puts aside his classical sensibilities to bear down upon the sustain pedal and oscillate some fortissimo chords. Later on, percussionist Prévost builds repeated, echoing thumps and strokes on his (oversized?) bass drum into an extended episode of near Wagnerian thunder, rife with cymbal scratches and ear-wrenching shimmers. This is further amplified by Rowe’s electronics that could be perceived as swelling chords from an imaginary pipe organ.

Conceivably FINE can also be described as AMM’s terpsichorean record, since the booklet states that the improvisation was “created together with the dancer Fine Kwiatkowski”. Since Kwiatkowski is most likely an interpretative performer rather than a jazz-oriented, aurally exciting, improvising tap dancer, it’s impossible to know what sounds or movements she — or is it he? — exhibited to the audience during the birth of this almost 59-minute extended artistic statement. But her motions and steps may have provided the clues that prompted the group’s switch here from the ambient monochrome of bell-like, single-digit piano touches and dense billowing electronic fog to kaleidoscopic noise and silences.

Singularly consequential like most other discs by the band, the continuous performance should probably be marked as excellent or very good, rather than merely fine.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Part one 2. Part two 3. Part three 4. Part four 5. Part five 6. Part six 7. Part seven

Personnel: Keith Rowe (guitar, electronics); John Tilbury (piano); Eddie Prévost (drum, percussion); Fine Kwiatkowski (dance)