Parker / Rowe / Dark Rags
Potlatch / P200
Evan Parker / tenor sax, Keith Rowe / guitar
This does indeed remind one of the raags of Hindustan, as much of Parker’s music does, opening with a slow meditation on two or three notes and building slowly into an impressiveedifice, with each pattern seeming to be born from the previous one. Not that Rowe pursues any analogous path; his textural playing was a revolution in the early days of AMM, and remains stubbornly itself. In a way, that makes him a great partner for the saxophonist, who can cleave to his partner as much as he wishes, but only that much, trusting Rowe to respond with contrast more often than repetition.
For those who haven’t heard it, Rowe’s electric guitar will be an anstonishment. He creates enormous soundscapes (a word he dubtless despises) and sounds much more like a player of electronics to the uninformed ear. This puts Parker’s very organic, acoustic sax into interesting territory, and while he’s worked with actual electronics in the past, this seems more comfortable that his playing with someone who relies mostly on what he plays for a sound-source. Parker likes contrast, and here he gets it in large doses.
Adding to the dubious parallel with North Indian music, the programme here consists of two long (40-minute) performances. The music feels slow and leisurely compared with Parker’s acoustic small-group music, although it must have been exhausting to play. Parker ruminates over little knots of notes, teasing at them as they mutate into fresh material, while Rowe sets up great grinding backdrops and pushes them around like thick paint on a canvas.
On occasion, too, Rowe picks up some talk radio station, either on his pickups or on an actual radio. This just adds to the rather spaced-out, almost Stockhausenlich (a word for which apologies are due, but it’s too late) quality of this music. It seems to float high in the atmosphere, as much of AMM’s music does. One is reminded of the pleasure Parker takes in meeting duo partners halfway and here, in a field of marked musial contrasts, that leaning-in is quite audible. Not in anything so superficial as instrumental sound or small-scale organisation but in the big musical philosophy. An impressive and unusual recording; those who don’t know Rowe’s music are particlarly urged to check it out, but Parker fans will love it too. Richard Cochrane