When Stick MenChapman Stick player Tony Levin, drummer Pat Mastelotto (both past and current King Crimson members) and Touch Guitarist Markus Reuterembarked on a Latin American tour with guest electric violinist/keyboardist David Cross (best known for his time with King Crimson) they recorded all of the shows, intending to release a series of digital live albums. An earlier, shorter Japanese tour with Cross was documented on the double-disc album Midori (MoonJune Records, 2016). But when the multi-track files were reviewed many of Reuter's and Levin's parts were missing. Having less usable material than expected inspired a creative solution, one which is good news for fans of the improvisation and soundscaping sides of the group's music.
The first of these five discs celebrates the improvisational bond established by the quartet with a selection of improvisations from Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. It includes several pure improvisations, as well as two performances of "OPEN" (the loosely structured title tune from that 2012 album, a regular part of the repertoire ever since), "Swimming In T" and "Shades Of Starless" (an improvisation based upon the soaring theme of King Crimson's "Starless").
The second disc presents a series of short suites, each compiled by editing together three improvisations each from concerts in Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Chile. Since there were no multitracks available, stereo board mixes were used. So these are constructions that would not have been heard this way in the hall. Nevertheless they sound completely natural, even with the limitation of the stereo source material.
Discs 3 and 4 present the complete, unedited performance from San José, Costa Rica. The set list (all two hours of it) covers a lot of territory. King Crimson classics include "The Talking Drum," " Larks' Tongues In Aspic, Part II," " Sartori In Tangier," "Red" and "Level Five." Stick Men material includes favorites "Hide The Trees," "Crack In The Sky" and "Prog Noir." In addition to new improvisations, "Swimming In T," "Shades Of Starless" and "OPEN" are repeated from Disc 1 in different versionswhich have the added interest of being presented in context.
Last but not least, the fifth disc presents soundscapes compiled using the isolated improvised parts of Reuter and Cross from shows in Argentina, Mexico and Guatemala. Again this is an edited creation different from what was heard in concert. Quite a few of the tracks have aquatic titles, with words like "floating,"" diving" and "under water:" perhaps because many of them come out of "Swimming In T" performances? In any case the titles suit the gentle flow of the music.
The Limited Edition boxed CD set is a thing of beauty, with individual picture sleeves for each of the five discs and a booklet packed with Tony Levin's tour photographs. The album is also available digitally, where the discs can be purchased individually (except for the two concert discs, which come as a set). Either way, there is just over five hours of music here, with everyone playing at such a consistently inspired level that picking out highlights seems unnecessary. The Suites and Soundscapes discs make a virtue of the limited multitrack files available, contributing something new to the Stick Men discography.
Disc 1: Swimming In T (La Paz); OPEN (Buenos Aires); Shades Of Starless (Sao Paolo); Swimming Improv I (Sao Paolo); OPEN (Sao Paolo); Swimming Improv 2 (Sao Paolo); La Paz - Opening Improv (La Paz).
Disc 2: La Plata Suite; Lima Suite; Montevideo Suite; Santiago Suite.
Disc 3: Opening Improv; Hide The Trees; Cusp; The Talking Drum; Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part II; Crack In The Sky;
David's Improv; Schattenhaft; Sartori In Tangier; Swimming In T.
Disc 4: Plutonium; Red; Mantra; Prog Noir; Shades Of Starless; Level Five; OPEN.
Disc 5: Floating I; Talking While Diving I; Hades I; Floating II; Skydive; Under Water; Hades II; Floating III; Infusion;
Whispering Transition; Hades III; Floating IV; Interstitial Finality; Diving T Coda.
Tony Levin: Chapman Stick, voice; Pat Mastelotto: acoustic & electronic drums & percussion; Markus Reuter: Touch Guitars
AU8, soundscapes, keyboards, voice; David Cross: electric violin, keyboards.
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