The Music Improvisation Company: s/t (ECM 1005)


The Music Improvisation Company

Derek Bailey electric guitar
Evan Parker soprano saxophone
Hugh Davies live electronics
Jamie Muir percussion
Christine Jeffrey voice
Recorded on August 25-27, 1970 at Merstham Studios, London
Engineer: Jenny Thor
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Derek Bailey is a seminal figure in the development of British free improv, and although this is one of Bailey’s earliest recordings, it houses much of what he would come to be known for: microscopic precision, a love of empty space, a supremely fractured aesthetic, and a refreshingly subtle disregard for the rules. As with his later solo outings and fruitful collaborations with John Zorn and other bastions of the avant-garde, Bailey brings his full commitment to the table in this early, digitally reissued ECM recording. Yet how to describe it? A possessed duck call tripping down a flight of stairs into a pile of discarded instruments? A broken jack-in-the-box heavily amplified on cheap speakers? A radio being tortured to give up its innermost secrets? A coven of instrumental wizards poring over the crucibles of some private alchemical experiment? Unfortunately, none of these seems to come close to mapping the album’s rambling course. One thing I can say for sure: the results are very consistent. So much so that track titles like “Packaged Eel,” aside from making me want to eat an unagi roll, do nothing to deepen my understanding of the goings on. As can be expected from one look at the roster, the musicianship is excellent. Evan Parker steals the show with his bubbling outbursts of indiscernible melody while Bailey cultivates an even more anonymous approach, cutting in and out with a surgeon’s touch.

In the end, such a project can only be what one makes of it. Its difficulties are also what make it go down smoothly, even as its effortless approach renders it impossible to fathom. It is a mysterious object, to be sure, and one that casts a new reflection with every turn.

5 thoughts on “The Music Improvisation Company: s/t (ECM 1005)

  1. Just bought this Amazon, before I realized it was available here. I listened and it sounds like quite a cool album. I’m surprised it has never been issued on CD, what with the major King Crimson connection – percussionist Jamie Muir. If marketed correctly (i.e. to the Crimson crowd) ECM would probably sell more of this CD – even in this age of downloading – than the majority of the titles in their catalog. No disrespect meant to other ECM artists, most of whom I love, but very few of them have a following anywhere near the level of K.C. Anyway, I am now going to look here and find out what kind of DLs are available. Amazon only provides a 256kps… watch – after I just bought it I will find a FLAC download on this site… Cheers everyone.

    1. Ah, my mistake… no selling on this site. well to the webmaster, nice work… it’s very informative… Cheers again everyone.

  2. I can listen to most anything and appreciate it, but this… not so much. Digitizing a bunch of old vinyl and this was in the pile. I must have bought it way back because of the King Crimson link, but there is nothing there. Not following the positive comments – it’s mostly just noise to me. “A possessed duck call tripping down a flight of stairs into a pile of discarded instruments” is pretty accurate (but not special).

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