In his liner notes to this recording, percussionist Eddie Prevost writes that there is "the tacit acknowledgement of potential failure at every music making moment. we can only ever be, at best, in the twilight world of the controlled accident." Since the group's inception in 1965, the various members of AMM have proven themselves masters of the "controlled accident," practicing the unforgiving art of non-idiomatic free improvisation with generally stellar results. This recording is one of their finest. "Combine + Laminates" tends to seesaw between aggressive, noisy sections dominated by Prevost and softer drone-like territories with Tilbury's muffled piano tones in the foreground. Both areas are given immense structural support by Keith Rowe's tabletop guitar arsenal: earthshakingly deep tremors in the louder portions, quietly keening harmonics in the more serene ones. Tilbury's unique genius in integrating the piano's more "traditional" sound into the alien environment created by the unorthodox use of percussion and guitar-electronics is very clear here.
Originally issued on vinyl by the Pogus label, the CD reissue includes another piece from the same date, a 32-minute interpretation of a section of Cornelius Cardew's masterwork, "Treatise." Cardew, a founding member of AMM, wrote this lengthy piece entirely in graphic notation. The performance sounds to the listener not substantially different than a "typical" one by this group. It tends toward the subdued with perhaps an emphasis on drier sounding textures, all seeming to be carefully considered even as they are improvised. This is one of AMM's great accomplishments: proving that free improvisation can be as thoughtful, demanding, and precise as composed music. Perhaps more so, judging from this beautiful document.