The Remote Viewers

Control Room

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After releasing an album a year between 1999 and 2003, the Remote Viewers suddenly went silent, following the self-released Sudden Rooms in Different Buildings, although there have been a few concerts here and there. And then, the floodgates opened with a five-CD set entitled Control Room, thus doubling the group's recorded output in a single move. Control Room is a mixed bag of projects revolving around David Petts and Adrian Northover, here expanding the core essence of the Remote Viewers. First of all, fans should be warned that only one of the five discs features the Viewers' classic trio. Everything else covers new ground. That said, if the group has quickly established in its career a unique mood for its music, this music has always taken on various forms, from disquieting art song to avant-garde sax trio pieces and bleak electronics. In Control Room, each of these sides gets extra room to develop, and each disc is an album in its own right. Disc one, "October Rush," is the boldest proposition in the bag: a continuous 60-minute instrumental piece penned by David Petts, for flute (Sue Lynch), double bass (John Edwards), guitar (Jon Dobie), saxophone (Adrian Northover), and electronics (Glenn Gupta and Dave Tucker). Atmospheric in typical Viewers style, this piece is also cinematic, slow-evolving yet finely developed. Listening to it, you will wonder why Petts has not been hired yet to score movies for David Lynch or David Cronenberg. Disc two, "The Art of Empire," features an expanded version of the Remote Viewers, now a sax quartet (David Petts, Lynch, Northover, and Caroline Kraabel), plus electronicians Darren Tate, Glenn Gupta, and Kato Hideki (with one of them appearing on each track). This album features sax compositions with electronics and, again, develops a side of the group's "regular" sound, blowing it to new proportions, while retaining the dark and avant-antiquated feel that makes it so different. "An Affair of Cyphers" (disc three) is strictly sax quartet pieces (with bassist John Edwards appearing on one track). Most of the tracks here also appear on disc two, but the readings differ greatly (especially in the cases of "Hollow Stems" and "Silent Weapons for a Quiet War"). Disc four, "Fiction Department" features the classic trio (David Petts, Louise Petts, and Adrian Northover) in a bona fide follow-up to Sudden Rooms in Different Buildings, with an even higher song content than usual (sax and electronic pieces having been diverted to other discs). There are no covers this time, but "Green Closing" and "Into the Hollow Face" deserve a place alongside the group's finest songs. Disc five, "Situations," is entirely devoted to Northover's sax prowess, in various solo settings ranging from studio multi-track pieces to a solo free improvisation. Here, we get much closer to Evan Parker or John Butcher territory than what fans of the Remote Viewers are used to. Was it a good idea to wait this long and release such a huge and varied collection? Well, it sure bestows more credibility to a band some have seen as a one-trick pony in the past. One thing is sure though, Control Room is for the believer (newcomers should start with single-disc albums) and should be savored slowly, one disc at a time.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 38:16
blue highlight denotes track pick