HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

25 April 2015

Fred Frith / Bob Ostertag / Phil Minton ‎– 'Voice Of America' (Rift)

The melting radio pictured on the cover is a pretty accurate image for the sounds heard in the grooves - a mishmash of tape manipulations, found recordings, and radio static blended seamlessly with guitar, synth, homemade instruments and some vocals. It's two concert recordings, the first side being a duo of Frith and Ostertag and the flip adding Minton. The tone is, as you can imagine, pretty far from the more structured tonal material Frith was doing around the same time on Cheap at Half Price and very much descended from the modernist quilt of Cage's Variations IV. This isn't music for everyone, and even improv-heads might struggle to understand the interplay here, at least on the first side where warm, thick bands of the manipulated source material are often indistinguishable from the 'instruments' at play, though it doesn't matter much to me. This is highly politicised material (of course!), stemming from the Rock in Opposition thing I guess, because Ostertag made most of the recordings in Nicaragua and blends them in with recordings of Let's Make a Deal, and some chatter from Merlin Olson of the L.A. Rams. I know this because the liner notes delineate all of the source material and even 'lyrics', which is an impressive feat for an album of field/found recordings. The b-side, as a trio with Minton, is more sparse and 'classically' improvisational, at least in a Derek Bailey kind of way. It starts and stops in fits and feels more like the disjointed series of challenges that it is, at least compared to side one's thematic cohesion. Minton does some traditional voice work at the end but otherwise is happy to assimilate into Frith and Ostertag's cacophony. Frith only plays 'homemade instruments' here and they are skiffle-band sounding, with resonating thumps and plucks, suggesting maybe a wooden box with nails sticking out of it. Voice of America was, I believe, the name of a CIA-backed radio station, and this propagandistic element is turned inside-out through the extremely musical avant-garde, a technique which retains inspiration even thirty-three years later.

No comments:

Post a Comment