R.P.M. stands for (Keith) Rowe, (Colin) Potter, (Phil) Mouldycliff, whereas the Circle Line is an integral part of London’s complex underground network. On such grounds – pun intended – Mouldycliff developed in 1989 a graphic score for Rowe’s performance; the trio recorded this version of the piece in 2002, accompanied by field recordings captured during a trip on the same route. In synthesis, what we hear is Rowe’s trademark dissection of the object previously known as the guitar mixed with structural sounds of wagons, other mechanical entities and human reverberations (voices, steps and so on) typical of an hour spent on the CL.
Having often traveled with this very medium in the past, the problem was usually having my player’s musical selection smothered or otherwise ruined by the surrounding clangor-cum-hubbub. In this case we have Colin Potter who – fortunately for us – balances the whole’s overall level, skillfully processing where necessary. The advice we are given is to listen with a good pair of headphones, and should definitely be followed. Only in this way does the music reveal its clever microscopy, giving the listener’s hearing apparatus the respect it deserves.
Beyond banal classifications – no, it is not a “drone album” – Circle Line represents an exercise in careful listening aided by sonorities that stimulate the innards of our discernment, although complementary to a day of ordinary commuting. Enjoying these extemporaneous inventions – that is, everything which exists between subsonic engrossment and exploitation of timbral oxidation – is a special pleasure in this particular context. I might look at commuting with earphones from a different perspective, after all.