by Dan Coffey
The latest AMM release finds the enigmatic collective stripped down to just two of the long-term collaborators: John Tilbury on piano (occasionally attacking it from the inside), and Eddie Prévost on (mostly bowed) percussion. While guitarist Keith Rowe is missed, the new disc, Two London Concerts, more than makes up for his absence in both its lyricism and astoundingly intense percussive interplay.
As the title drily indicates, the disc is comprised of two performances, each running just over 30 minutes. The first performance opens with several jarringly loud and unsettling chords from Tilbury, eventually followed by Prévost’s equally discomforting metal on metal bowing. The chords are abrupt calls; the bowing is a sustained response that eventually moves into the forefront while Tilbury relaxes a bit and explores the keyboard with less tension. (Although the antithesis of Morton Feldman in terms of sheer volume, one can hear, even more than usual, a stylistic similarity to the music of the late composer in the long spaces between chords that Tilbury employs, perhaps a nod to the interpretations of Feldman’s piano compositions that Tilbury recorded for the London Hall label in 2000.)
The thrilling nightmare of percussive piano and time-stretched percussion continues for fully 10 minutes in the first performance before the two performers change direction. The music is quieter with more attention paid to percussion as a time-keeper than a time-stretcher, and Tilbury’s playing becomes much more lyrical, and less chord-heavy. Relative quiet, not without tension, continues, with all sorts of sonic input from Prévost embellishing Tilbury’s more subdued playing.
The second performance, altogether calmer, and longer, shows Prévost expanding his palette, though there’s still plenty of bowing, and Tilbury, while mostly playing subtly and relatively quietly throughout, nonetheless takes the opportunity to dive into the innards of the piano towards the end of the performance, adding another layer of percussiveness to one of two performances that confound the ear’s perception of what is and isn’t percussive – the instruments that usually mark time end up stretching it. This is one of the most exciting and vital recordings to be released under the AMM name in quite some time.