AMM

Laminal

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Released in 1995 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of this astonishing improvising cooperative, Laminal contains three complete concerts from the early, middle, and later portions of AMM's career. For all the free music, noise, and what-have-you that was created since, the music from the 1969 Aarhus performance remains striking, assaultive, and sublimely creative. If one tries to give a comparative reference to similar music at the time, the nearest approximation might be to take the wildest, most unearthly Sun Ra explorations and filter them through the prism of Iannis Xenakis' "Bohor" to come close to providing a vague description of what occurs here. Performing as a quintet, the dual percussion of Eddie Prevost and Christopher Hobbs leads the way, solidly buttressed by Keith Rowe's guitar and electronics. Determining which musician does exactly what at any given time is a losing proposition, until a few wails at the close of the piece; if Lou Gare ever makes a remotely "traditional" sound on his tenor sax, it's impossible to detect. The music is loud (roaring, for the most part), uncompromising, enveloping, and entirely selfless -- no solos here, only pure group sound. Warning: Exposure to this recording may make it difficult to listen to much contemporary, so-called avant-garde music again; it will almost seem bloodless in comparison. By the time of the concert captured on the second disc, pianist John Tilbury, arguably the foremost interpreter of the piano music of Morton Feldman, had joined Rowe and Prevost to form the trio that would comprise the essential AMM unit in years to come. It also becomes clear, perhaps in part due to Tilbury's arrival, that a strong tendency toward quiet has asserted itself. Though the piece begins with frantic piano and raucous guitar noise, the moments of calm are more frequent than before, and seem to serve as nodes from which further exploration springs. True, this set features a larger-than-normal amount of relatively straight and loud drumming from Prevost (who is quite capable of going through a show without once making any sounds one usually associates with drums), but there is a much wider sonic palette in play. Tilbury's use of, in this context, surprisingly melodic and Feldman-esque arpeggios and clusters exerts a serene and meditative force that often, not always, persuades Rowe and Prevost to follow suit. Rowe's utilization of a transistor radio injects some humor into the affair as strains of "Love Me Do" and "Heatwave" percolate to the fore. When, from some unknown source, a woman's voice begins intoning a seemingly random series of numbers in German (code?), the effect in conjunction with the live music is nothing short of electrifying. The final recording, with the same trio, shows further steps toward a music centered on stillness, though not so much as other albums from the period such as Newfoundland. Again the set begins aggressively, again Prevost displays his impressive jazz chops, but ever more the trio returns to near silence, a rich minimalism where more and more beauty is found with less and less material. From the maelstrom of sound in its early years, AMM evolved toward a kind of musical kabuki, a sequence of gestures strengthened by extremely deep listening, where any sound, however slight, could be placed with unerring precision to form a whole. While it's impossible to capture all facets of this remarkable band in its entirety, this three-disc set serves wonderfully as both an overview of their art and a brilliant illumination of their immense sound world. Very highly recommended.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
AMM
AMM
36:46
2
AMM
AMM
38:55

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
AMM
AMM
01:11:17
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