Fred Frith

Live Improvisations

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For fans of that particular brand of noisy avant-gardism for which Robert Christgau coined the term "skronk," guitarist/violinist Fred Frith and saxophonist Tim Hodgkinson need no introduction. Charter members of the 1970s avant rock outfit Henry Cow, each has spent a lot of time making unspeakable noises with his instrument, and often those noises have been unspeakably glorious. This collection of live recordings -- all of them taken from live gigs around England in May of 1990 -- finds both musicians at their best. The first track is a half-hour improvisation that opens with Frith doing his guitars-on-the-table thing, eliciting unworldly moans, percussive paradiddles, and eerily human shrieks from his instruments; soon he is joined by Hodgkinson, whose caterwauling saxophone is hardly discernible from the noises Frith is making. The other, briefer slices of live performance follow in much the same vein, with both players creating a universe of noise that alternately assaults, soothes, and cajoles. All of it is cacophonic, but none of it is ugly; in fact, much of it is downright lovely. Highly recommended.