Fred Frith/Chris Cutler: Issue Two (2007)
This addition to the Frith/Cutler catalogue was recorded during the Henry Cow reunion weekend at New York City's The Stone in December, 2006; for those familiar with the recent working methods of both musicians, the only surprise is how rich and full this document sounds. Consisting of one 50-minute track, the duo creates the illusion of a trio, quartet and sometimes an even larger aggregate.
When legendary British genre-busters Henry Cow disbanded in 1978, it became clear that all members still had much to say in those gray areas where improvisation and composition cancel each other out. Frith and Cutler would go on to form the Art Bears and the studio techniques that permeated their three seminal albums would resonate throughout their numerous offshoots and subsequent solo projects.
Cutler has gone electronic, recently producing several fine solo albums employing samples and found sounds in imaginative ways. His drumming is as precise as ever, replete with subtle razor-sharp and lightning-fast attacks, but his sonic arsenal is now close to limitless and he brings the full fruit of it to bear on the live duo set. Voices swell and fade and his cymbal sounds are seemingly manipulated on the spot, suggesting a real-time sampling aesthetic.
Frith's monumental 1974 Guitar Improvisations prefigures the sonic landscapes he inhabits and he is somehow able to incorporate all that into a seamless live performance. From the largest walls of transparently abstract distortion to chordal washes of pulsing linear drones, even the plucked microtonal musings so much in evidence on Naked City's last album, Frith is clearly one of the finest sound sculptors in improvised music.
There are mysteries on this date, most notablywho's manning the radio? All that aside, this is a more than worthy addition to Tzadik's Stone benefit series and to the dauntingly large collaborative discography of Frith and Cutler.
Personnel: Fred Frith: guitar; electronics; Chris Cutler: drums, electronics