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Album Review

The Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble has been an ever-changing entity in both personnel and musical direction. Originally structured as a free jazz unit whose players were given "electronic shadows," this model has given way to something entirely other in composition and execution. The ensemble now numbers nine members. Only five of these players — Parker (saxophones, tapes, samples), Philipp Wachsmann (violin, electronics), Augusti Fernandez (piano, prepared piano), Barry Guy (double bass), and Paul Lytton (percussion, electronics) — are considered "free jazz" players in anything resembling proper usage. Six members of the ensemble play electronics (the others are Joel Ryan, Walter Prati, Marco Vecchio, and Lawrence Casserley). Memory/Vision is a work commissioned by the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and Oslo's Ultima Festival. These recordings of the work were taken from those performances. What is so remarkable about this work is that four of the ensemble members (the final four mentioned above) make music by transforming sounds and phrases from the musicians in real time according to individual interpretation and re-offering them as improvisational material. Talk about walking on a wire; this all happened live in front of an audience! In his introductory notes, Parker gives credit for the inspiration for the structure of this work to Charles Arthur Musés and his concept of "chronotopology." At each of the seven stages here a "strand" of prior recordings exists, sometimes already containing prior recorded improvisations. These are reacted to and acted upon, creating within their new framework the resonances of something previous, something other. Sure, it's interesting, but how does it "sound"? Like excitement, like something emerging that moves beyond itself in each phase; it sounds like a dialogue that cannot be insular because of its input from "outside" as each member contributes from previously held notions not only of the music itself, but from previous improvisations; it sounds like movement directed at other movement for the purpose of moving further still. And finally, it sounds like a group, an ensemble, fixed on a direction where many articulations create seams and cracks from which emerge musico-linguistic utterance that becomes a communicative language both poetic and speculative. It is at times startling, wondrous, puzzling, and beautiful. It is always compelling, engaging, and full of interest for any listener with an open mind. Ultimately, this is one of the most emotionally resonant works Parker has given listeners. And one hopes that such a description will not insult his brilliant mind or his aesthetic sensibilities. Wonderful.

Memory / Vision, Agustí Fernandez
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