A platter of black vinyl packaged in an unmarked black cardboard jacket, with only a strip of paper disclosing some information: this is Hat Melter's Unknown Album. The group consists of four American improvisers: two cellists (Matt Turner and Jeff Klatt) and two percussionists (Jon Mueller and Steve Hess). At the heart of this album is a free improvisation, but what we hear through these two side-long pieces is a different story -- to be more precise, a different perspective. The pieces have been reshaped and re-sourced by Chris Rosenau (Telecognac, Collections of Colonies of Bees). Instruments are heard from other musicians' microphones, events have been resequenced, the whole listening experience is reconstructed following another person's point of view. It results in a fascinating but highly dizzying album. For example, at one point on side two, the quartet is split into two cello/drums duets, each isolated in its stereo channel and "heard" from a distance. A cello moves front stage center and a few seconds later everyone gets tucked away in the right channel. The technique recalls René Lussier's CD Deboutonné, where the sound engineer had the possibility to mix the input of a dozen microphones placed in and outside the recording booth, but in that case the performance was left unaltered, only the sonic perspective changed. Here, we don't know where performance ends and studio construction begins. It makes for very dynamic music, despite the highly abstract nature of the original improvisation -- which should be included as a bonus track if this album ever gets released on CD.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture