Thursday, April 29, 2010

Evan Parker & Keith Rowe - Dark Rags (2000)

| Avant-Garde | Free-Jazz | Experimental | Drone |

Evan Parker is, of course, ever productive, his inventiveness and breath seemingly in infinite supply. Keith Rowe, far more active outside of AMM than he has been in ages, appears to be enjoying a creative renaissance. Twin pillars of European Free Improvisation, and infrequent collaborators by way of Supersession, Parker and Rowe have been overdue for a summit. Just such a meeting played out on the cusp of the Millennium, in separate concerts staged in Nantes, France on 12-31-99 and 1-1-2000. An originator and champion of prepared-guitar and horizontal ("table-top") guitar techniques, Rowe is a formidable foil for Parker's expressive tenor aerobatics. As "Dark Rag #1" opens, the musicians share anxious space within a time-suspended vacuum of tone. The kinetic potential here is clearly enormous. Like sprinters stealing hungry glances at the starting line, Parker and Rowe exchange gestures-a fretboard creak, a trill pregnant with anticipation-and take off. Though at first as patient as Parker is euphoric, Rowe responds to the saxophonist's hyperbolic flights in turn. While Rowe scrapes, strokes, and scours strings to spur Parker's impassioned response, electronic treatments broaden the attack, acting upon deliquescent drones and rhythms like a solvent wash. During quieter sections, Rowe's short-wave radio asserts itself, and Parker plays as if to commune with the murmur of indiscernible voices. At the climax, Rowe engages Parker with quicksilver trickles of electro-acoustic guitar tone, challenging the saxophonist--a bundle of nervous energy throughout--to match this magmatic flow. Parker obliges, but only briefly. He breaks the moment of mutual reflection with a spectacularly elaborate solo. Rowe's guitar responds to Parker's pointed provocation with irascible growls, maintaining a pricklier, almost quarrelsome presence through the remainder of the performance. Whether it's amiable argy-bargy or genuine tension, such antagonism heightens Dark Rags' appeal. It also leaves one wondering whether "Dark Rag #2," which opens in groggy dissonance, is the product of the ultimate New Year's Day drinking binge or the fallout from the first set's spat. Rowe needles Parker with shrill pitches; the saxophonist's slurred retort sounds queasy. Cartoonishly vivid bass-bulge and dry, heaving noises give away the joke. It's a hangover, improvised in nauseating Technicolour. Cute. A skittering, jazz-skewed Parker salvo signals the return to serious improv. Rowe pursues a more turbulent tack, providing an inconstant anchor that shifts and groans beneath Parker's blustery phrases. After much lurching and pitching, the harrowing section subsides. Parker plays the passing of the storm in spacious measures, exhibiting a rare vulnerability. Approaching the halfway mark of the 40:25 piece, Rowe tapers off the guitar noise to lulling near-nothingness, leaving a foreign short-wave song to underscore the saxophone. As Parker's solo continues, Rowe conceives a backdrop of metallic shimmers and eerie echoes. The two soundstreams merge beautifully, sustaining the sensitive interplay of these two superb musicians, while carrying the disc to its riveting conclusion.

Catalog: P200 (Potlatch)
Album Overview on Fakejazz
Download (192/256kbps)


  1. Bless you!

    I asked if you got this, again Thank you!

    Did you heard this album: Elliott Sharp's Octal_ Book One (Issued by
    The scanned cover is within the iTunes converted files.

  2. By the way check this live concert video of Keiji haino and Han Bennink from Tokyo 10.2.2008

  3. thanks for these!
    and yeah, I saw your request, that's why I went after it