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Eye To Ear 3

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Album Review

Almost on schedule, Fred Frith releases a third collection of his film scores. The first appeared in 1997, Vol. 2 in 2004, and now, Vol. 3 six years later. This set contains two complete scores for Hussi Kutulcan's Drei Gegen Troja, ("Three Against Troy") an off the wall, darkly comedic road movie from 2005, and Deborah Kauffman's and Alan Snitow's powerful 2004 documentary Thirst, about the battle over the privatization of water rights. The first 11 titles on this CD make up The Troja Suite, a work that encompasses many of Frith's signature traits as he explores everything from jaunty electric guitar rock and brooding keyboard soundscapes to atmospherically rhythmic pulses, and open spaces inhabited one or two instruments. Frith's corp of musicians on this piece are Ana Gosling on violin — as prominent as his guitar here, if not more so — Tilman Muller's trumpet and flügelhorn, and Bernd Settlemeyer playing various percussion instruments. Frith plays guitar, bass, and keyboards. The sense of movement in this work is profound, ever more labyrinthine in direction, while remaining unusually accessible. The humor, too, is notable: it's heard best in "Love Parade," the utterly rockist "Escape of Our Heroes" (wherein Frith plays straight-up, balls-out rock guitar), and in "The Wedding." The score for Thirst is a different animal. His choice of musicians is a bit larger and more exotic: Sheela Bringi on bansuri, Wu Fei on gu zheng, Carla Kihlstedt's nykelharpa and violin, Gino Robair's diverse percussion instruments, and Heather Heise's melodica and piano, as well as Frith's guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, and violin.The second score is far shorter, comprised of just five cues, all entitled "Water Music." Despite the fuller instrumentation, these are more skeletal pieces. Only the second and fourth parts approach anything like midtempo. That said, it is in the restraint and taut ambience that Frith's intricate music and precision can be heard, even when pieces feel largely improvised. Instruemtns interact with one another in more intimate ways. Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, it is starkly, hauntingly beautiful. Eye to Ear, Vol. 3 is Frith's most accomplished volume of film music to date.


Born: February 17, 1949 in Heathfield, England

Genre: Jazz

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...
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