Brotzmann assembled a fine, multinational nonet for this date and the results, while falling short of his efforts with other mid-size bands, is still enjoyable. The title piece, which occupies the bulk of the recording, is indeed based around a horn motif imitating the sound of an air-raid siren. The score for the composition serves as the cover illustration and gives an idea of the work's structure. It's very roughly blocked out, using graphic notation, clock markings, and written instructions, as well as a minimal amount of standard notation, but clearly shows Brotzmann attempting to establish a loose framework for his band of improvisers. Alarm is divided into sections featuring small groups of players, sometimes on their own, other times backed up by the other musicians, but never in a traditional soloist's role. The attention is always focussed on their interaction with each other or with the overall group sound. The piece ends with an odd little passage that sounds very much as though penned by Breuker and borrowing liberally from Ennio Morricone's theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Tenorist Frank Wright's "Jerry Sacem," a swinging, gutbucket blues, takes the band out in fun fashion, Wright offering fervent vocal exhortations over the cooking ensemble. Alarm may not be up to Machine Gun heights, but is enjoyable enough on it own merits.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick