The Musique Action festival in Nancy, June 2002: the English pioneers of texture-based free improvisation AMM meet on-stage with the much younger French electro-acoustic improv quartet Formanex. To shuffle the cards, John White and Laurent Dailleau were invited to join in. The menu: an excerpt from once-AMM member Cornelius Cardew's graphic score "Treatise" -- Formanex had already recorded a few pages of it for Fibrr Records. Of course, Cardew's piece can lead anywhere; it is little more than pretense for a musical collaboration. And it works. The single 45-minute piece begins with a bang, a group "chord" that fades out (the process being reminiscent of John Oswald's favorite introductory trick) leaving almost nothing, except for an electrical hum. In 30 seconds the listener has experienced the full dynamic range of the album. Slowly, a texture emerges, rich, dense, but quiet. The result of a group effort, it leaves no chance to isolate individual contributions. Then, 14 minutes 56 seconds into the track, the near-silence is interrupted by a very precise piano chord doubled by a cymbal hit and something electronic joining the cue. This cue acts like a scalpel piercing through the skin. Gradually, individual voices detach from the collective organism and ooze out. First up is Eddie Prevost's percussion work, followed by Dailleau's theremin, and the entrance of sheep. Yes, sheep, a disturbing arrival and not the last. Other sound samples erupt from time to time, disturbing the flow of the piece, shaking it up. A pop song bursts out for a few seconds, five minutes before the end, and it delivers the final stab. Afterward, the piece dies slowly and peacefully, ending on a Morse code transmission and a faint sine wave. And there's no applause at the end of the disc to distract the listener from processing the experience. And a captivating experience it is.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: Cornelius Cardew