259

Fred Frith: Eleventh Hour

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Fred Frith: Eleventh Hour
When he first emerged on the British scene in the seminal Canterbury group Henry Cow over thirty years ago, few could have envisaged that guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Fred Frith would go on to a career marked by fearless pursuit, continuous parallel growth, and stylistic diversity. But if you go back to those early albums—in particular Unrest and In Praise of Learning—you can see that Frith's multitude of concerns were laid out from the beginning; he just got better at isolating them into projects with more specific emphasis as time passed.

While Henry Cow could be jagged and extreme, it could also be subtle and chamber-like. And it's the latter disposition that's at play on Frith's latest release, Eleventh Hour, a two-disc set that brings together four pieces that root themselves in the string quartet or trio—often augmented with electric guitar or trombone—and one piece for multi-layered guitars. It's compelling stuff, the kind of material that will appeal to fans of more adventurous works by string ensembles like Kronos Quartet. Kronos may, in fact, be the group that most people think of first when it comes to contemporary string quartets—it's certainly the most commercially successful, having fashioned an almost rock 'n roll persona—but when it comes to breadth of technique and interpretation, Arditti String Quartet is at least equal, if not greater, in stature. And so Frith's choice of Arditti to interpret his works for string ensemble is an inspired one.

Disc one begins with the oldest composition of the programme, '90's "Lelekovice, a nine-part suite that places a variety of demands on the quartet. From short movements with lyrical themes to sharply-contrasted intensities and almost ambient-textured passages where glissandi create delicate tension, this is the most approachable work represented. "Tense Serenity, a five-part suite, explores the seemingly paradoxical combination of string trio and trombone. Trombonist Uwe Dierksen, like French trombonist Yves Robert, explores the more brash temperament of the instrument as well as a softer, more sensuous side. That Dierksen has been involved with experimental German abstract composer Heiner Goebbels is no surprise, and it's a good bet that Frith chose him for "Tense Serenity on the basis of that work.

While both of disc two's pieces for string quartet and electric guitar—the three-part "Allegory and the single-movement "Fell —might suggest an odd juxtaposition of acoustic and electric sonorities, Frith's contributions are, for the most part, surprisingly subtle, blending in remarkably well with Arditti, although his tone is more angular and dominant on "Fell. "Stick Figures finds Frith and guitarist William Winant layering prepared guitar sounds over a base of fluttering low strings and a jaggedly repeated minor chord—a more intrusive alternative, perhaps, to ambient music.

Eleventh Hour documents Frith's continued growth as a composer in the new music arena, and for all its juxtaposition of light and dark, it remains totally compelling and strangely beautiful.

Visit Fred Frith on the web.

Track Listing

Lelekovice (1990, for string quartet); Tense Serenity (1997, for string trio and trombone); Allegory (2001, for string quartet and electric guitar); Stick Figures (1990, for 6 guitars and 2 players); Fell (2001, for string quartet and electric guitar).

Personnel

Arditti String Quartet (Irvine Arditti, violin; Graeme Jennings, violin; Ralf Ehlers, viola; Rohan de Saram, cello); Fred Frith, electric guitar; William Winant, electric guitar; Uwe Dierksen, trombone.

Album information

Title: Eleventh Hour | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Winter & Winter

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Marbles
Marbles
Falkner Evans
Read Onward & Upward
Onward & Upward
Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy
Read Cry Babies
Cry Babies
Cry Babies
Read ALQE
ALQE
Antti Lotjonen Quintet East
Read Apura!
Apura!
Karl Evangelista

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.