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Step Across the Border

Fred Frith

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Album Review

Although this is technically the soundtrack to a film of the same name by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel, Step Across the Border actually serves as an excellent overview of Fred Frith's groundbreaking work as a soloist, bandleader, and collaborator. There's an example of his "guitars on the table" approach ("Romanisches Cafe"), and a couple of excellent duos with tape manipulation whiz Bob Ostertag ("Voice of America, Pt. 3," from the lost and lamented Voice of America album they made for the defunct Metalanguage label). There are also scraps of material from his work with Skeleton Crew as well as numerous other well-chosen miniatures that vary from tuneful and charming to stark and forbidding. Perhaps the best thing this album accomplishes is that it puts some of the material from the astounding (but, sadly, long out of print) album of avant-garde power trio compositions and improvisations Frith recorded with Bill Laswell and Fred Maher under the name Massacre back into circulation: the very fine "Legs" is included here, as is a previously unreleased live track from 1983. Very highly recommended.

Biography

Born: 17 February 1949 in Heathfield, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the '60s and '70s, much (if not most) contemporary improvisation was jazz-based. That began to change in the '80s, when a significant number of rock musicians began exploring the possibilities of free improvisation and new classical forms. Fred Frith is one of the more prominent. Co-founder of the underground British band Henry Cow in 1968, composer/improviser/guitarist Frith moved to the U.S. in the late '70s, where he began associations with such New York-based experimental musicians as cellist...
Full Bio