Followers as well as players of avant-garde improvised music may sometimes question the reason for grand projects involving numbers of musicians large enough to be considered an orchestra. The difficult arrangements, lack of economic support, often lack of audience sympathy, and so on and so forth, sometimes poach all possible pizzazz out of the music before it has ever happened. But one clear reason to undertake such ventures is that a recording of such a project may serve as a wonderful introduction or time capsule to a whole group of players active in a given period. An archivist of this type of music could probably pull out such a recording from every era, and this would be one of the choices. This album is a slice of life from the downtown New York improvising scene, circa mid- to late '80s. A real plus is that the participants came up with such an interesting way of doing a large group project, a departure from the norm where one individual -- usually the one who is the most insane, or has the biggest ego, or both -- creates a "composition" that works as kind of a screenplay for the performance, or at least that is the theory. In the case of Exquisite Corpses From the Bunker, a group of 22 musicians got together and collectively figured out a way they could all make a record together. They evolved a studio project, not a live performance, and one of the cornerstones of its success is that it functions via the miraculous technology of overdubbing. All the players were never together at once, which with as many guitar players as there are here was probably a decision that saved lives as well as trouble. In the surrealist/children's game "exquisite corpses," a piece of paper is folded over and over, then individuals do separate drawings on the folded sections without looking at what each other has done. This is exactly how the musicians involved created this album, by visiting the studio in rotation, adding something to a section of what was already there without referencing the entire piece. And interestingly enough, no musician was allowed to redo any of their overdubs, an attempt to retain a sense of spontaneity that is a slap in the face to usual studio procedure. It all works fantastically, and it seems as if it is because of the time and place, as a later CD follow-up didn't have nearly the crystalline, impetuous sense of perfection that this album has. A glance at the line of musicians reveals some that went on to greater glory; a detailed listen proves that another strong point of this project is that it debunks the star system. All the players contribute on an equal basis, all are equally responsible for the artistic success of the project, big names and obscure-o's alike. As befits the collective/anarchist nature of the project, no one is credited as composer.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne