Four of the five musicians billed on the cover of this album make their first appearance in Leo Feigin's catalog. And even though Apparitions is not a revelation, these four apparitions are quite welcome. This quintet session, recorded at Gateway Studio by sound magician Steve Lowe, features excellent acoustic playing, dizzying electronic manipulations, and the kind of sharp improvised interaction that keeps the listener focused on the music. Four fifths of the group use electronics, either as their main mode of expression (Paul Chauncy) or to expand their instrument of choice (cellist Stan Adler, guitarist Rob Palmer, violinist Philipp Wachsmann). Which occasionally leaves Jon Lloyd's soprano sax the only unaltered voice -- and he is sitting front row center within the mix. The language is resolutely of the European free improv variety, with Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble as a key influence. The music is in constant flux, guitar, cello and violin moving in and out of the layers of electronics, while Chauncy often picks up the sound of one instrument to create "hall of mirrors" effects. The album features two ten-minute pieces, two six-minute pieces, and six more at four minutes and under. This relative shortness in duration is very efficient, as the group is able to present rich ideas without having to frame them within long contexts. Tracks like "Apparitions," "Thought Fox" or "The Order of the Hoof" are wonderful exercises in concise improvisation (or brilliant editing). But the undisputed highlight of the set is the ten-minute "Dive," where all the potential of this electro-acoustic hybrid group is revealed, where the tension between a desire to reach a unified group sound and the clash between acoustic/electronic (and also young/old, as Chauncy and Palmer are much younger than their colleagues) becomes the driving force of the music. Unsuspectingly, Apparitions may be one of the best free improv records of 2004: Without pontificating and with a clear desire to let the listener in, this quintet has managed to forge a unique sound. And the listener comes out of it asking for more. Much more.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture