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Album Review

Another in the Sub Rosa label's efforts to record the heritage of avant-garde artists, Dada Antidada Merz brings together work recorded by three friends and colleagues — Hans Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Raoul Hausmann. Their selections come from wildly differing sources — Arp's from an album from 1961, Hausmann's mostly from late-'50s recordings, and Schwitters' from the early '30s — but together make for a striking collection of their spoken word work. Those not fluent in German or French will only be able to appreciate the sound of the poems rather than their meaning, but given Dada's emphasis on upending conventions this is perhaps an appropriate side effect. Arp's work, recorded in a room with a slight bit of reverb that adds to the atmosphere, consists of a series of selections from his poetry, with a dramatic five-minute section of "Die Wolkenpumpe" being a highlight, his voice at once rhythmic and flowing, occasional interruptions punctuated by the turning of a page. Schwitters has only two selections but they are both astonishing highlights, "Anna Blume" and "Ursonate," showing his sense of language play in incredible form. Hausmann's efforts aren't far behind, and on items like "Offeah" and "FMSBW" he seems less like he's reciting than he's speaking in tongues. His tour de force here is "Interview Imagee Avec les Lettristes," a mock press conference of sorts that sounds unlike any other one yet done. Compiler Marc Dachy's liner notes provide some general context on the three performers and how they knew each other, as well as some details of the recordings themselves.

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