Keith Rowe - Harsh, Guitar Solo (10.2000)
Keith Rowe is a pioneer and-to maintain this is hardly exaggerated-one of the heavenly figures of the younger, electronic development in improvised music.
After an early stay in Mike Westbrook's big band, this London Pop Art painter developed the table top guitar in the middle of the 60's. He laid his guitar flat on the table and prepared it with all sorts of mechanical objects (springs, paper-clips, pliers, sheet metal, brushes) as well as electronic ones (contact microphones, radios).
He discovered this instrument anew as an electro-acoustic tonal source. Via these techniques and the improvisational stance that went along with it-ones that no longer referred to free jazz, but rather to noise and sound-he has influenced musicians like Fred Frith, Jim O'Rourke, Mike Cooper, Jean-Marc Montera or Kevin Drumm.
In "Swingin' London" of the late 60's, he made a lasting impression on Syd Barrett, who even later considered Rowe his teacher. Rowe became legendary thanks to his work in AMM (since 1965) and to his work with composers such as Christian Wolff, Howard Skempton and especially Cornelius Cardew (Scratch Orchestra, People's Liberation Orchestra).
There are quite a few excellent recordings of Keith Rowe at the moment: with Taku Sugimoto and Günther Müller, with Peter Rehberg and Christian Fennesz, with the Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra (see also their double CD Electric Chair + Table, GROB 206/7) or with the saxophonist Jeffrey Morgan.
Harsh is, however, pure and uncut Rowe! Over 60 minutes of solo music, recorded live in Cologne on 11 December 1999 in a cold garage. Markus Schmicker led the recording session and mastered the tapes. The music is like the CD's title, harsh and unforgiving. But surprising again and again and eluding the classical improvisational dialectic of tension and release.
An extensive booklet adorns the CD, which shows one of Rowe's painted comics of the guitar preparation. In the meantime, the pictures have been in exhibitions.
Harsh is his second solo recording, after 'A Dimension Of Perfectly Ordinary Reality'(1990).
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