Peter Kowald

The Victoriaville Tape

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On May 19, 2002, Peter Kowald and William Parker played a duo set at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville. Both bassists had made regular appearances in Victo over the past two decades, but no one in the audience could have guessed that it would be Kowald's last. The German improviser died in New York City four months later. The French-Canadian radio was not recording this concert, but the mixing desk engineer kept a tape rolling, just in case, and negotiations toward the release of this performance were already in progress when fate struck. Now, as the listener, you can decide whether or not to "hear" this album as a normal performance or as a farewell, but it's suggested you choose the latter. Why? Because, all in all, The Victoriaville Tape is a rather ordinary offering from extraordinary musicians. There are moments in "Arrival" and "Conversation" when the sound of the two basses becomes overwhelmingly claustrophobic, each player trapped in his own world without stepping into the other guy's sphere. When Kowald starts singing 24 minutes into the 41-minute "Conversation," it sounds unnecessary. That said, there is magic on this record, especially in the last minutes. The two shorter tracks ending the set are nothing less than fabulous. "Departure" drones in a rapturing way, soothingly beautiful after the monolithically hyperactive monster that came before it. This refreshing dip opened new doors of communication between the bassists for the encore "Farewell." One wishes the concert had started just then, but as it is, The Victoriaville Tape makes a decent album and, circumstances considered, a worthy document.

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