Absolute Zero: Never Acquiescent
Returning to the United States again, Enrique sought musicians who were interested in the same blend of music that he waspeople who would not be afraid to experiment, to work in collage compositional techniques, who would not be afraid to stretch their musical ideas and who would be willing to do this in exchange for picayune financial reimbursement. It was now the 1980s after all; many of the more experimental groups had folded up their tents and faded into the night. (For instance, renowned rock bassist Hugh Hopper had given up playing the bass for a year in order to pursue the rewarding occupation of taxi driver!) It was a very tough and unrewarding time to be an experimental musician. Several musicians, including trumpeter Keith Hedger (now with Konk), a guitarist and several other players, passed through the group. Paul Roger, a talented drummer with a powerhouse delivery, was the one constant with Enrique through the 1980s (and through most of the 1990s).
In 1987, the group changed permanently with the addition of keyboardist/singer Aislinn Quinn. Aislinn held a Master's degree in composition from the California Institute for the Arts and is a great advocate of hard-edged contemporary music. She drove from New York to Boston to audition as the band's singer, and sang without a microphone while competing with thundering drums and a several hundred watt amplification system. After proving her worth ("walking on water" according to Enrique), she joined the group and added a new dimension to the group. While somewhat reminiscent of the vocal stylings of Dagmar Krause, the German vocalist who had sung with Henry Cow and Slapp Happy, Aislinn's vocal style is wilder and more edgy. She also treats her vocals at times through various electronic effects, such as the Vocoder, which has the effect of, at times, changing her gender, or making her sound like a demon chorus, to rather chilling and bizarre effect.
The group remained a trio of Enrique, Aislinn and Paul through most of the 1990s and they managed to put out an EP CD Alive in the Basement in 1990, recorded on a Hi Fi VCR! Literally done without overdubs, the resulting product was a startling, raw dissonant piece of organized sound, featuring vocodered vocals, an emulator, Enrique's virtuoso bass playing and Paul's controlled but violent bashing. The entire experience is extraordinarily intense, and is one of the few rock band documents that I have heard that rivals the intensity of Cecil Taylor or Ornette Coleman. It is an amazing recorded document. The recording is extraordinarily dense, a remarkable feat for a three piece without overdubbing. When the group arrived at the studio to master the CD, the engineer asked where the rest of the band washe did not believe so much sound could be produced by such a small group.
The group had extensive equipment, so performing opportunities had to cover the cost of transporting equipment at the very least. Since most experimental music jobs do not pay very much, this limited the number of gigs they were able to secure. They secured performances at the Institute of Contemporary Art, among other locales in Boston; and in 1999, they played at the Miami Avant-Garde Music festival (the largest festival of its type outside of New York City). They also toured Europe in the late 1990s and have a loyal following there.
Several glowing write-ups have appeared in print and on-line magazines through the years; yet the group was still a part-time phenomenon for the band. Because of personal reasons, Paul decided to leave the band in 1999. This seemed at first to be a devastating blowPaul had played with them for years, and knew the group's compositions inside out. Who could they find who would fit in as well?
Enrique had stayed in touch with his old friends in the U.K. and the well-respected former Hatfield and the North, Gong and In Cahoots drummer Pip Pyle was available for the job. So Absolute Zero was starting to absorb its influences. In addition, within a few months the highly regarded UK guitarist Phil Miller (Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North) joined the group. Absolute Zero was absorbing some of the people that had influenced it!
Absolute Zero is a blend of explosiveness, subtlety, complexity, and avant-garde music, all tempered with lyrics that speak to the poor and oppressed. They hearken back to a time when music was viewed as a vehicle of social change and the thought that it was necessary to change musical perspectives in order to change society.
Absolute Zero's music combines advanced musical techniques, virtuosi playing styles and revolutionary rhetoric. Their first mini-CD, released in 1990, consisted of two compositions, "Paradigms" and "An I to an Eye". They have recently completed their first full length CD, Crashing Icons and are seeking a label and distributor.