Simon H. Fell

Composition No. 12.5: Compilation II for Improvisers, Jazz Ensemble & Electronics

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"Compilation II" is the second installment in a series of compositions blending classical forms (sections of thoroughly written music), jazz structures (free jazz head-solo-head forms) and free improvisation, live recording, and studio tinkering. The piece, in nine parts, is scored for ten musicians including a brass section, a string section, keyboards, drums, and electronics, but all rarely play at the same time. The recorded music has also been manipulated in the studio using xenochronicity, a technique that consists of assembling unrelated performances (in "Part VII: Drumset [For Paul]," the drum solo is put against electronics the drummer never heard when he was recording), backward tapes, etc. "Compilation II" feels like a huge extravaganza, which it actually is. Simon H. Fell's every musical experience has been poured into it, from his solo playing to his free improv trio playing, interest in electronics, and post-production techniques. The keyboard sounds used are crude, but they rarely come to the foreground. Fell's playing belongs to his average twisted self. Alan Wilkinson provides a strong performance on alto saxophone. Fell's detailed program notes help the listener from getting lost in this orgiastic, at times Zappa-esque composition, where seriousness and hoax live hand in hand. Stylistically, this is light years away from the abstract and restrained music he would release in the late '90s (like Pure Water Construction with Martin Archer). Composition No. 12.5 was first released on LP and cassette in 1991, but this reissue adds material that had to be cut, so this is the first time the complete work is made public. Fans of the bassist's more intimate recordings (like the beautiful 1999 Extracts by the VHF trio) will be puzzled, others will find avant-garde entertainment and a lot of food for thought.

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