Sunday, February 17, 2008


Note: This album is variously listed as either AMMMUSIC 1966 or AMMUSIC 1966; even the liners vary in spelling!

1967, Elektra; reissued by ReR; available

8 tracks, 74:26

AMM doesn't need a lot of introduction. One of the longest lived free improvisation ensembles, they have been producing boundary-pushing music for over forty years. AMMMUSIC 1966 is the debut recording by the group, and the classic lineup is in place. That lineup would be Cornelius Cardew, Lou Gare, Eddie Prevost, Keith Rowe, and Lawrence Sheaff. Cardew was already an established modern composer, and Prevost has been the only constant through the years; Rowe was a constant for an extended period but has since parted ways with AMM. The instruments listed are varied, including everything from cello and accordion to transistor radios (Cardew, Rowe, and Sheaff are all credited with the latter). The CD is indexed somewhat confusingly; there are indeed eight tracks, but technically there are only five pieces of music. Tracks one and two are both part of "Later During A Flaming Riviera Sunset", and tracks five and six both comprise "After Rapidly Circling The Plaza", while track eight is ten seconds of silence. The indexing makes sense, though; the original LP featured edited versions of "Later" and "After", and the CD allows you to listen only to the original LP's material. "Later" begins the album with a bang. Twenty-eight minutes of hardcore improv are spread over the two tracks, never comfortably sounding like any one genre. "After" is slightly over twenty-four minutes in length and similarly presents a grand look at AMM's strengths in an extended format. The other three tracks are shorter but no less intense; the nearly six minute "Ailantius Glandulosa" actually contains some of the more jarring moments on the whole album. "In The Realm Of Nothing Whatever" is a mellower piece that's just under fourteen minutes, and "What Is There In Uselessness To Cause You Distress?" is a concise three minutes. Sheer explorations of sound on each track leave the origin of individual sounds to speculation. The violin, cello, and guitar are particularly warped, so that none are easily identified. The radios provide frequent mysterious soundbites, some in English and some not. Prevost's furious percussion is about the only element that leaves no speculation. Not really rock, and not truly jazz or classical either, AMMMUSIC 1966 is still a marvelous souvenir of free improv's early days. The thick booklet alone is nearly worth the purchase. It contains the original LP notes (more like mysterious questions and declarations) and a long essay by Prevost, who recounts how audiences back then didn't know what to make of the group. It's doubtful a lot of modern audiences can get into this, but in an age where Wolf Eyes and SunnO))) are hipster icons, AMM deserves reevaluation. It's not much of a stretch to say that the first wave industrial bands (Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA, Nurse With Wound, etc.) and the noise musicians owe a huge debt to this album. Absolutely essential!

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