Recorded and originally issued in Japan in 1978, the contents of this two-disc set quickly became something of a collector's item as the album quickly went out of print. Happily, the master tapes were reacquired for release on Incus in 2002, providing further documentation of a rich portion of Derek Bailey's long career. The solo sessions here date from right around the same time as his collaborations with the cream of the Japanese jazz avant-garde that were released on the DIW disc Duo + Trio Improvisations, and the music is within the same general sphere. But solo Bailey is often revelatory and, arguably, the clearest path toward understanding his conception. Here, listeners find him about midway between the spikier, more "insectile" music of the late '60s and early '70s as heard on his first solo album and in contexts like the Music Improvisation Company and the somewhat mellower (though no less intense) tack he would follow beginning in the late '80s. Perhaps it was due to an influence from the country where these recording took place, but several of the selections find Bailey taking the utmost care about exactly where he was "placing" the notes into sonic space, not unlike rocks in a Japanese garden. Indeed, in cuts like "Nothing So Difficult as a Beginning" (titles courtesy of Lord Byron), one can hear anticipations of the future work of guitarists like Taku Sugimoto. Disc one is a series of studio improvisations and disc two a pair of live performances. The expansiveness and intuitive sense of the overall arc of the piece displayed on the latter disc are very impressive; no matter what the length of a given improv, he never seems to play too long or cut things off too short. He even takes advantage of a bit of (inadvertent?) feedback hum to indulge in some quasi-flamenco playing on "Live in Kalavinka"! Both sets are primo Bailey, making New Sights, Old Sounds a necessary purchase for aficionados.
AllMusic Review by Brian Olewnick