Brion Gysin

Live in London 1982

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Live in London 1982 is the Beat Generation revamped. Recorded four years before the death of Beat legend Brion Gysin, this live set features the poet reciting poems from the late '50s and early '60s, accompanied by a makeshift no wave backing band consisting of Slits bassist Tessa Pollitt (also playing cello), Rip Rig & Panic (and later free improv) drummer Steve Noble, Penguin Cafe Orchestra percussionist Gile, and guitarist Ramuntcho Matta, also credited for writing the band's vamps and grooves. The music is resolutely avant rock: dissonant, provocative, and largely improvised. The musicians' interventions are tentative at first ("Minutes to Go, #1," "Cut-Ups (1959)"), then, following an extended unaccompanied recitation, the musical aspect of the show takes off. Paradoxically, that 25-minute solo spot for Gysin, entitled "Teaching," provides a highlight: the man clearly enjoys revisiting his old writings and, at age 66, definitely has the cultural authority of a teacher. The sound quality in the first two-thirds of the album is fine. However, things degenerate starting with "Ad Lib," which seems to be an audience recording from the back of the venue. The sound quality improves for "Impro: 1," but the tapes are badly warped, which makes the track very annoying. The last two tracks sound better and contain, in fact, the best material on the album: the band gels better and Gysin paces his recitation to the groove. Live in London 1982 is an interesting document, but it will appeal only to fans of spoken word or connoisseurs of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin's legacy.

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