Live In Japan
a long time an impossibly rare specimen in the Frith discography, and an
important one for those who are interested in following the really important
steps in the long travelogue of this musician, Live In Japan gets - at
last! - the digital treatment.
"close encounters" with this CD gave me two surprises. First, I
was very glad to see that the music on this album still plays great and sounds
fresh. It's the kind of album that could be of interest for many types of
listeners, way beyond those completists who are always in search of a rare
album. Then, I was not really too happy to discover - a mere 28 years after
the fact - that those two LPs plus nice booklet that I bought by mail order
were supposed to come in a box! Hence, this is the first time I've ever seen
the album cover.
the time of those (eleven) Japanese concerts in 1981, Frith had many important
chapters of a long career already behind him, and they're far from being
his baby pictures. Henry Cow and Art Bears, of course. Also the album Gravity,
the trio Massacre, his duos with Cutler, Coxill, and Kaiser. Plus, three
volumes in the Guitar Solos series. For this Japanese tour Frith chose "the
guitars on the table approach" (one of the guitars being of the double
neck type), adding a violin, a pilot's throat microphone from World War
II, and an HH electronic Stereo Mixer amp with HH Digital Effects Unit
(does anybody remember HH?). All tracks were improvised.
was a bit sorry to see that this re-release has no pictures of the kind
that appeared in the back of the LPs in their original edition. From Zappa
to Fripp, from Bailey to Frith, from Beck to Van Halen, I've always considered "how
it's done" to be an important part of one's appreciation of music, and
in those cases when attending a concert is not really possible even a poor
substitute like a picture can work miracles.
As it's to be expected, the solo Frith who appears in these recordings is quite
orchestral and polyphonic, with strong contrasts in both timbre and volume,
and a "conversational" approach from the sounds sources that's
sometimes quite apparent. Check the way the thin guitar that appears on
the right channel at about 4' 30" on Fukuoka II - almost a blues on
a koto played slide - is coupled with the "big" timbre appearing
in the opposite channel. Or the way many instrumental sources - here they
also include the strings of a piano, played pizzicato - mix, starting at
about 4' on Maebashi I.
the most part, to me it all sounds as played "in real time",
the only important exception that I seemed to detect being the "change
of mood" due to what (to me!) appears as a tape cut at 16' 29" in
Osaka I, when the long instrumental and vocal episode gives way to a "second
chapter". Maybe the most "easy to get", "rock",
piece, the exuberant, percussive, Fukuoka III could in a way be seen as
"Variations on the classic Bo Diddley Beat", with the closing track,
Tokio I (just like in the old LP edition, this track is more than 2' longer
than shown in the timing that appears on the CD cover) set as a fine contrasting
whole gains from what I perceive as an highlighted sense of surprise, of
a language being created "in the moment" - a fact which emphasizes
our perception of danger and risk.
read in the liner notes that the original edition was a mere 1.000 copies.
And that the original tapes are nowhere to be found. So Thomas Dimuzio
transferred the music from a virgin vinyl copy "using Sonic Solutions
to remove pops and crackles, and Waves Z-Noise for de-noising". It
all sounds very good.
Two minor points.
level is enormous, I'd say about three times the original vinyl. Wisely,
dynamics are not too compressed, so listening to the CD is not fatiguing.
However, to me the music sounds a bit too "modern", and in a
"false". It goes without saying that those accustomed to the clean
digital silence will greatly appreciate the lack of tape hiss at those moments
when signal is low. I turned the treble knob quite a bit to the right, and
the sound immediately got more "air", but still, to me, the music
most important consequence is that, while listening to the music, I could
not perceive the fact that it had been performed live anymore. I immediately
checked the sound of my old LP, and in my opinion in that format the music
definitely sounded more "alive". It could be a conscious choice,
of course: In fact, there's no final applause anymore, either. (It was
the one element that, for a moment, made me feel as being a part of the
© Beppe Colli 2010
CloudsandClocks.net | Nov. 8, 2010