Eleventh Hour is the fourth offering by Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble on ECM. The ensemble here numbers 11 members, six of whom are electronic sound sculptors and sound processors, with the remainder -- including Philipp Wachsmann and Paul Lytton -- are free jazz and new music improvisers. The title piece, in five parts, was commissioned by the Contemporary Arts Center in Glasgow, where the album was recorded. The first track, "Shadow Play," is a separate entity employing the same strategies of music being played live, then fed through a number of sampling keyboards as live electronics are added and processed as yet other sounds and other music is being played atop it all, beginning the cycle over again. The sheer sparseness and ghostliness of "Shadow Play" is a hook in and of itself. There is a lot going on as violin, soprano saxophone, percussion, and piano all fall together, but as the sounds are treated and added to electronically, they have an air of space and separation that creates an immense space for the listener. On "Eleventh Hour," free improv of a more intense variety kicks off the first section with live acoustic instrumentation in the foreground and sonics are slipped forward and backward through the dialogue. As the piece develops, silence, ambience, and repetition play more and more of a role, as new modes and routes are proposed and integrated through the sections as each "real" instrument is allowed its own free play, and then dialogue, in duet and trio engagements with others. The final five minutes of this work is one of the most ominous and tense dronescapes, punctuated by high-pitched industrial sounds and offering a mood of pure foreboding, and even dread. It's dynamic, dramatic, and utterly unsettling, leaving the listener spellbound once the recording has drifted into silence.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek