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Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: The Eleventh Hour

Chris May By

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With over a decade of serious and engaging electro-acoustic experimentation behind him—some of it with the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, some of it in other contexts—Evan Parker has produced his most ambitious and perfectly realised work in the genre to date in The Eleventh Hour: a masterpiece of sonic adventure and time travel. Not jazz as we previously knew it, Jim, but free collective improvisation with degrees of architectural form and lyric beauty we all too rarely get to enjoy.

The music is hard to describe in words, because very little of the territory it inhabits, or the language it uses, has been explored before, and there is little existing context in which to position it. So Compare & Contrast exercises have to go analogous and extra-musical: deep space and deep ocean both spring to mind upon immersion in the sounds here. At times it feels like you are on another planet—yes, one in a galaxy far, far away—with the sounds of otherwordly elements and inhabitants all around. At other times it's like being immersed in the deep, deep ocean, with its previously undiscovered, fabulously exotic creatures drifting in and out of your field of vision. But whether deep space or deep ocean, it's a universe of shards and bubbles and flights of sound unlike anything else you've likely heard before.

Alongside the electro-acoustic synergies, The Eleventh Hour continues Parker's parallel exploration of improvisation-as-composition, rejecting the either/or dichotomy and arriving at form and structure through the accretion of moment-to-moment interplay. Anyone doubting the validity of Parker's thesis need do no more than listen to this album: a new universe of perfectly structured music created almost entirely through spirited and dialog-rich in-the-moment group improvisation.

The Eleventh Hour is the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble's fourth ECM album, and the group is now almost twice the size it started out, with—significantly—the mainly-electro musicians in the lineup now outnumbering the mainly-acoustic ones (most everyone moves from one sphere to another from time to time). It's not pure jazz, it's not pure electronica, and it's not pure conservatoire music either. It's something else again: fresh, vigorous, and very, very beautiful.


Track Listing: Shadow Play; The Eleventh Hour: Part 1-Part 2-Part 3-Part 4-Part 5.

Personnel: Evan Parker: soprano saxophone, voice; Philipp Wachsmann: violin, live electronics; Paul Lytton: percussion, live electronics; Agusti Fernandez: piano, prepared piano; Adam Linson: double-bass; Lawrence Casserley: signal processing instrument, percussion, voice; Joel Ryan: sample and signal processing; Walter Prati: computer processing; Richard Barrett: sampling keyboards, live electronics; Paul Obermayer: sampling keyboards, live electronics; Marco Vecchi: sound projection.

Title: The Eleventh Hour | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: ECM Records

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