Iskra 1903: Chapter Two: 1981-3 (2006)
Some titles are more apt than others. Iskra 1903 has spanned the decades as a working group, and this edition was recorded at gigs back in the early 1980s. Dates, however, seem irrelevant, as this music is essentially unbounded by the constraints of both time and place. The titular Chapter Two refers practically to the revision of the group where violinist Philipp Wachsmann stepped in to replace departed guitarist Derek Bailey.
Barry Guy, Paul Rutherford and Wachsmann all utilise electronics as a means for augmenting their instrumental vocabularies. This has the effect of lending the music an often unworldly air. It's particularly apparent on "Panshanton," on the first disc of this three-disc set, where Rutherford's trombone takes a kind of lead in the opening passage, though his work is augmented by a sparse backdrop of electronics and augmented technique that paradoxically both complements and usurps it.
When Evan Parker brings his tenor sax to "Epis," it has the effect of underlining how adaptable the group identity is. It also underlines how rewarding a pastime deep listening can be both for the musicians involvedand for the listener fortunate enough to be exposed to this music. The highlighting of individual contributions seems somehow surplus to any discussion of this music. Throughout this set, the level of group dynamics and interplay is both deep and intricate, and as such, it's the music's most important factor.
What's clear on "Veprol," which opens the second disc, is that this is a trio of master improvisers, each supremely alert to the input of the others and able to respond to it with intelligence, depth of knowledge and musical personality.
On "Emingha" it's also obvious that the skilled use of extended technique, manifesting itself in particular in Guy's use of his bass almost as a percussion instrument, further supplements the group's tonal and timbral range. And while Wachsmann is comparatively economical in his use of such an approach, his lines are supremely puckish and rich with the impression that he's somehow working the music's margins in a way that's always compelling.
As with a group like the Schlippenbach Trio, recordings like this can quite profoundly capture moments in time for the unit at play. Both groups are in essence works in progress, and such is the spontaneous nature of the form in which they both operate that their longevity seems nearly infinite.
Track Listing: CD1: Dieptaur; Phelgstar; Panshanton. CD2: Veprol; Eiverl; Emingha; Marib. CD3: Stoleri; Vendia; Epis.
Personnel: Paul Rutherford: trombone, electronics, tambourine, euphonium (CD1:2); Philipp Wachsmann: violin, electronics; Barry Guy: bass, electronics. Evan Parker: tenor saxophone (CD3:3).