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    AMM at The Ivar Theatre

    AMM Guitar, 1996
    Audience members scope Keith Rowe’s guitar. Photo by Pat D.

    Los Angeles, California
    Wednesday, April 24, 1996

    AMM is a British free improvisation group that has been operating since 1965, when they pretty much single-handedly invented the genre. From the very beginning, they attempted to make music that was not influenced by anything that came before–a complete and radical break with the past–and their first record, AMMusic from 1966, proves it. Imagine my surprise when I heard they were scheduled to play two nights at The Ivar Theatre in Los Angeles. Although I didn’t attend the first night, two separate little birds told me it was one thick, elementary school stage curtain of sound with occasional moments of transcendence and boredom.

    AMM Cymbals, 1996.
    Eddie Prevost’s cymbals and sticks. Photo by Pat D.

    The second night consisted of a solo piece from each member with a final group “jam” of austere, quiet improv nightscape. John Tilbury tinkled some somber, sleepwalking piano compositions in the dark that had me pleasantly drifitng in and out of naps for almost an hour or so—quite a nice experience for my eternal memory imprint. Keith Rowe sawed away on his tabletop guitar with a bow—all the while cramming springs, forks and just about anything you can imagine under and in between the strings. A strange, taped voice hooked up to his guitar reacted to all of this activity. A young child moved by the novel sound gleefully giggled quite loudly during one of Keith’s many sudden silent spots, which ignited the entire place with laughter. Moments like that can’t be bought with any amount of money. So, forfeit your funds to the wind and get rid of everything you own. Enjoy life: eat out more often—in the woods. From subtle rubbing and tapping with drumsticks containing various tips to multi-object appreciation to loud, wailing, full-kit abuse, Eddie Prevost showed the conscious world once again that drums and related percussive objects can be used in a much more creative manner than just providing a beat, and that there is much magic to be experienced in the world of free-improv. As often as possible, I like to be burned alive. AMM didn’t fail me. In fact, they lit the match.

    Note: This article originally appeared in Lou Zine (Lou’s Records newsletter) April 1996.

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