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Derek Bailey & Jamie Muir: Dart Drug

Chris May By

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For decades as rare as hens's teeth—or should that be larks's tongues in aspic?—Dart Drug was originally released on the Incus label in 1981, and reissued on CD in 1994. In 2018 it has been remastered and rereleased on vinyl by Honest Jons.

The bracing yet strangely beautiful album is one of the few recordings made by the percussionist Jamie Muir after he retired from professional music-making in 1973, first to study Buddhism in Scottish and French monasteries, then to become a fulltime painter. For the project, Muir reunited with the guitarist Derek Bailey. The musicians had first recorded together as part of the trailblazing free-improv group Music Improvisation Company in the early 1970s, shortly before Muir briefly joined King Crimson, with whom he recorded one studio album, Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Island, 1973).

Bailey, on the other hand, left behind an extensive body of recordings when he died in 2005. A good proportion of these are duo albums made with percussionists, with Han Bennink, John Stevens and Tony Oxley among the other empathetic partners.

On Dart Drug, the soundscapes—to call some of them "music" would imply a degree of sonic conventionality which is mostly absent—are shaped more by Muir's whirlwind energy and idiosyncratic array of percussion than they are by Bailey's guitar. Some of Muir's instruments are identifiable, others are anybody's guess. Hub-caps floating in jello and struck by tyre irons? Empty barrels suspended in mid-air and shot at with BB guns? We may never know.

But we can be confident that Bailey enjoyed it all. In his book Improvisation: its nature and practice in music (Moorland), published in 1980, a year before this album was recorded, he approvingly quotes from a magazine interview Muir gave in which he described his acquisition of instruments and approach to music-making. "Well let me put it another way," said Muir. "I much prefer junk shops to antique shops. There's nothing to find in an antique shop—it's all been found already; whereas in a junk shop it's only been collected. But in a rubbish dump—a rubbish dump has been neither found nor collected—in fact it's been completely rejected—and that is the undiscovered / unidentified / unclaimed / unexplored territory—the future if only you can see it."

On that basis, maybe Dart Music can meaningfully be described as music—just not as we know it, Jim. Whatever you call it, listening to it is a novel out-of-body experience.

Track Listing: Side One: Carminative; I Soon Learned To Know This Flower Better; Jaja. Side Two: Dart Drug.

Personnel: Derek Bailey: guitar; Jamie Muir: percussion.

Title: Dart Drug | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Honest Jons Records

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