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MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Two Sides of Fred Frith

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From the very start of his musical career, guitarist Fred Frith has been equally at home as an improviser, a songwriter or a combination of the two. His first group, the legendary Henry Cow, always featured a balance between songs that were used as a springboard for improvisation and free improvisations. In contrast, his debut solo album Guitar Solos (Caroline, 1974) featured eight tracks of unaccompanied improvised guitar, including prepared guitar; Frith's innovative, experimental approach to his instrument was highly influential, and the album was hailed as a landmark. Its sequels Guitar Solos 2 (Caroline, 1976) and Guitar Solos 3 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Fred Frith: Clearing Customs

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Over the decades of his solo career, Fred Frith's music has grown more reflective of the range of his musical interests. As well as being an improviser of significance he has also shown an interest in a diversity of folk musics, with initial signs showing up already, in his work of the late 1970s. Clearing Customs might, in a sense, be a culmination of the process started back then. An unusual instrumentation enhances the singularity of the single hour-long title piece, and the deployment is something else. The eruption of sound at the 3:24 mark has the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cosa Brava: Ragged Atlas

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There's a lot to a title as far as Ragged Atlas is concerned. The members of Cosa Brava have long been skilled in avoiding the obvious and their music incorporates influences from disparate sources. The range of their musical activities and affiliations in the past result in a coherence that is notable. When allied to the self-evident depth of intelligence at work here it amounts to something special.

There's impishness about the music, a sense of fun that maybe stems from the joy of discovery. When the likes of that comes from such experienced hands it's a joy in itself. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cosa Brava: Ragged Atlas

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Probably the most curious reaction guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Fred Frith's Cosa Brava, when it debuted at the 2008 International Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville, was that it was “too melodic." Detractors of that show will likely be equally nonplussed by the group's overdue debut disc, Ragged Atlas, but it'll be their loss, as Frith's first “rock band" in far too many years may possess a decidedly lyrical bent, but is no less profound for it. Cosa Brava finds the perfect nexus between his more accessible yet still left-leaning music for dance, including 2006's outstanding The Happy End Problem (ReR Megacorp), and the ...

INTERVIEWS

Fred Frith: Mapping the Further Reaches

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Multi-instrumentalist/composer Fred Frith occupies a unique niche. As a charter member of Henry Cow, a band for which improvisation was always an integral part of musical expression, he was partly responsible for some of the most radical music ever to have emerged from beneath the rock umbrella.So much so, in fact, that the discontinuities between that band's albums will always be more pronounced than their continuity. Any notion of music in a state of flux that this might imply has been indicative of Frith's work in the decades since that band split up. Now that he ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Cosa Brava: Ragged Atlas

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In the last forty years, no one has been about to categorize just what exactly Fred Frith music is. His seminal early work with the British prog-rock band Henry Cow--along with the likes of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart--developed the idea rock artists could also be accomplished and serious musicians. Later he founded the New York Downtown scene with John Zorn, Tom Cora, Gary Lucas, and Thomas Chapin. His continuing interests accompany the worlds of free improvisation, film music, chamber ensembles, dance, and theatre.

Cosa Brava is Frith's return to a regular band playing what he describes as rock music. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Fred Frith: Nowhere / Sideshow / Thin Air

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His sixth album of music for dance, Nowhere / Sideshow / Thin Air continues multi-instrumentalist/composer Fred Frith's longstanding collaboration with Carla Kihlstedt. The violinist was heard most recently on Frith's previous dance disc, The Happy End Problem (ReR Megacorp, 2006), and in performance as part of his well-received Art Bears Songbook, with Art Bears percussionist/lyricist/co-founder Chris Cutler, and Cosa Brava, a new rock-oriented group with a debut disc due out in 2010. It's clearly a fruitful relationship that has seen the intrepid duo explore everything from the avant-tinged to the painfully beautiful. Even when he's being lyrical--as he seems to ...



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