The Crypt: 12th June 1968, The Complete Session

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The Crypt was the second release by this British free improvisation unit and is representative of their groundbreaking early work. The two 45-minute pieces that made up the original album (a third is added in the CD release) are fine examples of the sonic extremes achieved by AMM. The first, "Like a Cloud Hanging in the Sky?," is mostly harsh scraping, harrowing feedback, and is generally assaultive in nature. One feels cornered in some infernal factory where heavy sheets of metal are being sheared and dropped. Of work in other genres being performed at the same time, it perhaps comes closest to Stockhausen's "Microphonie," though here the improv aesthetic always provides breathing room. "Coffin Nor Shelf," the second piece, takes things to the other end of the scale. Hushed and eerily intense, Lou Gare's tenor saxophone work emerges more clearly than before, lending the proceedings a slight jazz-tinged aura. If reminiscent of anything of that time, one can hear traces of SunRa's freer bands of the early '60s. Both works established AMM's realization of a palpable, organic sonic space, largely independent of pre-existing idioms. Oddly, the one piece not originally issued, "Neither Bill Nor Axe Would Shorten Its Existence," comes closer to the direction AMM would take in subsequent years. It has a somewhat more meditative character, flowing between electronic rumblings and ethereal whistlings. All in all, this two-CD set is an invaluable document of the nascent years of one of the most creative and seminal improvisatory groups of the late 20th century.

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