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23 June 2009

Area - 'Event '76' (Cramps)

Here's where they really lose the plot, at least for the rockist Area fans. Boasting a somewhat compromised lineup featuring Steve Lacy and Paul Lytton (who sneaked onto Maledetti, if you remember from yesterday's post, and 75% of this album is titled 'Caos part II' so I guess it's the logical followup), this is a full album of free improvisation, containing no trace of the bombastic rock riffs found on Crac! or Arbeit Macht Frei. Despite the jazzy pedigree this is much more akin to NWW-list free playing (ah, that has become a genre of its own now!) such as Jacques Berrocal, Futura label stuff, maybe MEV. But for me this is a great step forward in showing what rock music can be. This whole record is recorded very weirdly - in the red at times, with a strange chorus effect on everything and unusual reverse fade edits popping up, even when the crowd cheers at the end. Lytton's cymbal crashes sound like trashcans and occasionally dominate the proceedings, but it gives the whole record a raw feel that makes the fucked up synths, babbling, and tape manipulations have a rhytmic centre. I love this record and I think it's a must-hear for anyone interested in any of the tangents that cross it: Euro freedom, prog rock, free jazz, musique concrète. But it's really in the context of Area's other work that makes this record slay so much - it's like all of the outtakes and indulgences that they restrained themselves from including on the studio albums - all at once, and all on top of each other. On the cover we get a still from Frankenstein, a scene also featured prominently in Victor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive which I just watched. It's pretty appropriate for the Frankenstein monster on this record: curious, and certainly monstrous, but gentle and approachable. I wonder what the difference is between this recording and what the audience actually heard that night in the Università Statale di Milano -- I'm guessing it was a bit clearer than the saturated sounds on this vinyl, but maybe it was incomprehensible live too. I imagine Stratos running back and forth like a madman or maybe he was just bent over a table of electronics processing his voice. This is a fitting way to end the Area section of the Impenetrable Prog Gauntlet, and I'm sad I don't have Stratos's solo album to be the icing on the cake.

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