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GENTLE FIRE Explorations (1970-1973) 3 CD box
GENTLE FIRE Explorations (1970-1973) 3 CD box
This is a useful document because, although
the group played an important role in the
early 1970s in the grey zone between
experimental contemporary music and fringe
youth culture, almost no recordings were
released. A maverick group of mixed
instrumentation, home-made instruments,
early electronic processors and synthesizers
(VCS3), they were radical about customizing
instrumentation to performance - with an
emphasis always on unusual sonorities and
timbral modulation. Although they were
invited to participate in many of
Stockhausen’s works of that period (in part
because one of their members, Hugh Davis,
had been Stockhausen’s assistant for two
years) they mainly operated as an
autonomous band, performing their own
programmes which might include
compositions by Stockhausen, Cage, Brown,
Ichyanagi or Wolff, commissioned works, or
their own collective compositions. Whether it
was Darmstadt or Glastonbury they’d just
turn up with their instruments, playable
sculptures, boxes of electronics and (where
possible) their own quadraphonic speaker
system and play like a band. In common with
AMM, MEV, Intermodulations and a handful
of other ensembles, they formed a link
between the high formal artworld and
something more related to the youth culture
of the time. And their abstract, quasi-
improvisational aesthetic, string-and-
chewing-gum electronics, experimental
compositional and performance procedures
and fondness for extended techniques,
documents an important and mostly
unaccounted strand in late ’60 and early ‘70s
British experimentalism. CD 1 features
convincing, late ‘60s sounding interpretations
of Stockhausen, Brown, Wolff, Ichiyanagi
and Cage - definitely the right technology
and mindset for these works; CD2 features
their own compositions – a mixed bag,
covering a lot of ground; and CD3 presents a
whole performance of one of their own
compositions recorded at the now legendary
two week International Carnival of
Experimental Sound (ICES), organized by
the equally legendary Harvey Matusow (look
him up) at the Roundhouse, in 1972, at
which they used a specially built giant
musical sculpture called the gHong.
Sounding like a cross between Harry Bertoia
and Mikrophone II, this recording, heard here
for the first time, significantly cleaned up, is
an amazing and valuable document. Not for
everyone and not always consistent: some
probes fly less far than others, but rich for
music historians and afficianados of the days
of lo-tech electronic discovery and putting
the boat out. Nicely packaged in a well
designed box, with a 48pp booklet containing
a full history by Hugh Davis, various forms of
documentation and photographs.

Code: PD35
Price: £28.00