JOHN RUSSELL / PHIL DURRANT / JOHN BUTCHER – Conceits (1987/1992)

Emanem

When improvisation conveys a general feel of bubbling optimism, this is usually a good sign to begin with. Still, in certain occasions the multitudes of sounds emitted run away, expanding our impotent ignorance in all directions and dimensions. You just can’t put your fingers on them: thus listen, smile and be resigned, for the incapability of depicting the unpredictable complexity of a collective acoustic flux remains one of the most debilitating failures in a reviewer’s life. Especially when those messages arrive from the instruments of three masters of impromptu jargons.

Already at the time of these recordings Russell, Durrant and Butcher were artistically equipped enough to immediately select the right paths with prescient alertness, in near-telepathic fashion. Their ability in mutating the fluorescence in the harmonic matter of the joint timbres is, to this day, astonishing. There is nothing in this collection that speaks to the ears crudely or vulgarly, and that includes the segments in which the gestural content suggests theoretical chaos. Minuscule snippets of melody are instantly truncated, or replaced by clusters of shrilling pitches; percussive chit-chat flows into labyrinthine counterpoints; unconstitutional plucking and rude strumming destroy the conventions typically limiting the act of playing a guitar. And, on top of everything, “extreme variety” never rhymes with “creative irresponsibility”. Meaning that the lingering sensation is that of having listened to musicians thoroughly conscious of where they are at any given point, perhaps the best compliment an improviser can receive.

Oh, and don’t worry if at the end of the album you can’t remember a single event. Unofficial beauty has its way of escaping a mere human’s memory.

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