Curiously, this untitled CD is released as part of Another Timbre's Guitar Series. True, Keith Rowe
has a long and distinguished career as an improvising guitarist, dating back to the mid 60's and before. But over recent years he has steadily reduced the role of the actual guitar and correspondingly increased the role of electronics to the point where they are now dominant. At the time this recording was made, the only vestigial trace of a guitar in Rowe's set up was a finger trainer, a device used by classical guitarists to train their fingers. It was joined by various pedals, contact mikes, shortwave radio, face fans and assorted paraphernalia; hence Rowe is credited with "electronics" rather than "guitar."
Rowe is joined by alto saxophonists Seymour Wright and Martin Kuchen
on the album's one 35-minute piece. Given Rowe's belief that the room is an important component of any performance, it is important to note that this recording was made at the church of St. James the Lesser in Midhopestones near Sheffield in June 2009, not live at the concerts the trio played that month in London and Leeds. Rowe has said that in concert there is a sense in which the audience actually produces the music, so that raises the question of who produces it when three musicians are alone in a large resonant space such as a church.
The three begin tentatively, with lots of silence punctuating their occasional brief quiet sounds. If anything, they sound very small in the space, not knowing whether to try and fill it, or how. Gradually, momentum gathers as the sounds become less sporadic and the players begin to respond to each other. Plenty of Rowe's trademark sounds appear, most noticeably his hand-held fan and shortwave radio. The responses from Küchen and Wright are subdued, with their emphasis less on blowing than on electronics and tinkering sounds. In this respect, they are drawn into Rowe's orbit and his approach to making sound. Uncharacteristically, despite that finger trainer, there is a greater role for guitar sounds in Rowe's playing than of late, with the occasional strummed chord appearing. As the piece proceeds, the two saxophonists become more outgoing, not playing "solos" but progressions of notes that act as backdrop and accompaniment to Rowe and each other.
Depending on the volume at which it is played, this can actually feel like two different albums. At normal playback volume, the majority of the sounds are compatible with the kinds of ambient sounds found in daily life and so they easily merge in or are camouflaged; occasionally a more prominent sound is clearer, leading to reactions such as: "Is there something wrong with the fridge?" or "What are those neighbors up to?" At higher volume, the album's sounds emerge clearly from the background and so they can be better heard in their own right and the players' interactions can be appreciated fully.
Personnel: Martin Küchen: alto saxophone; Keith Rowe: electronics; Seymour Wright: alto saxophone.