Live in Allentown USA

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AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick

More than any other group creating spontaneously improvised music, the members of AMM have a calm certainty about them, a serene sense of unhurriedness. There appears to be no doubt that whatever musical element is brought to light during their performance, it will prove capable of both generating beauty on its own and assuming its place as a structural element with what has preceded it. This live recording is in many ways typical of the group in its most common configuration of the '80s and '90s: Keith Rowe on guitar and electronics, John Tilbury on piano, and Eddie Prevost on percussion. The emphasis of the hour-long piece is on the quieter end of the spectrum, sometimes with Tilbury contributing mellifluous, subtle patterns, other times Prevost and Rowe ticking and scraping away so that one feels inside an old, quietly humming factory built for some arcane purpose. When the trio thinks it appropriate, the sounds fade away to near silence, with perhaps the faint buzz of Rowe's amplifier providing the only audible element. Later in the piece, Prevost begins worrying some bell-like objects and Rowe's guitar assumes a more aggressive posture. But, unlike any number of improvising ensembles whose performances tend to follow a standard quiet-loud-quiet structural arc, AMM routinely foil expectations, here subsiding into muffled bells and soft, keening sighs from bowed guitar strings. As in recordings such as Newfoundland and The Inexhaustible Document, the group once again demonstrates why they have been the pre-eminent freely improvising ensemble since their inception in 1965. A beautiful album.

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