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CD/LP/Track Review

Keith Rowe / John Tilbury: E.E.Tension and Circumstance (2011)

By Published: January 24, 2012
Keith Rowe / John Tilbury: E.E.Tension and Circumstance If it weren't for the sound of one hand clapping, we would have no resonance at all.

That snarky summation might best describe this hour-long duo performance by former AMM ensemble band mates Keith Rowe and John Tilbury. Like the zen koan "one hand clapping," this music evokes an almost instantaneous meditation.

Recorded just outside of Paris in December 2010 at Les Instants Chavirés, this duo brings together two legends of British improvisation not heard together on record since Duos for Doris (Erstwhile, 2003).

Rowe's, while purposefully non-musical does summon a sort of mechanical euphonic. Playing on a tabletop, he can kindle feedback, distortion, and a tsunami of energy to build both dense walls and paper-thin constructions of meditative prayer. In duo with Tilbury, Rowe appears to be the instigator or captain of this two-man ship.

The piece begins tentatively: a jabbed key, some string scrapings and we're off. Well, not so much off as the musicians delivering an invitation to settle quietly into themselves. This journey is more about silence than noise. Thought over actions. The pair's exercised civil restraint is not so much call-and-response as it is conversation, one that has developed over decades. Neither Rowe nor Tilbury is in a hurry to finish the other's sentence, but both are familiar with each other's views. They a add pieces of a tuned radio and a bird whistle, all fitting unpretentiously into the colloquy.

Where Rowe slashes, Tilbury organizes. Often—and maybe for the benefit of the audience—the pianist will play a brief melody (a human element), counteracting the electro-acoustic noise. Rowe balances the indifferent with compassion, in an internal journey of inventiveness.


Track Listing: One Piece.

Personnel: Keith Rowe: guitar; John Tilbury: piano.

Record Label: Potlatch Records

Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde



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