British guitar legend Fred Frith and saxophone innovator John Butcher have announced a new collaborative LP, The Natural Order. Though the duo have been playing together for over a decade, they had never recorded as an ensemble up to this album. Moreover, this is not exactly a new LP, as it was recorded in 2009 and mixed in 2012, although it does document the duo’s first in-studio meeting. The Natural Order was recorded as close to the live setting as possible, eschewing overdubs in what essentially amounts to an hour-long jam, later divided into 10 tracks. The album offers what both of these musicians have come to be known for (a deconstructive guitar technique, multitracked sax harmonic weaving), but still manages to offer some unexpected twists; for instance, when Frith takes a second seat to Butcher’s saxophone lead, or Butcher pushes his style to levels of aggression rarely heard in his solo work.
Frith is best known as one of the leading forces behind RIO titans Henry Cow, later joining the similarly prog-revolting Art Bears and the noise-jazz trio Massacre. He is rightfully held as one of the most original guitar players of all time, melding jazz, rock, noise and avant-garde trappings into a highly personal style. An avid collaborator, aside from regularly playing with his former Henry Cow and Art Bears cohort Chris Cutler, Frith has worked with John Zorn (as a member of Naked City), Brian Eno, The Residents, Bill Laswell, Derek Bailey, Robert Wyatt, etc. John Butcher’s name too stands out among the improvised music greats. A worthy heir of Evan Parker’s explorations, Butcher toys with multitracking and controlled feedback as ways of taking the saxophone to new places. A serial collaborator himself, Butcher has played with Derek Bailey, John Tilbury, Phil Minton, The Ex, Eddie Prévost, Radu Malfatti, Christian Marclay and many others.
So yeah, The Natural Order honors its title by rising as the one album which finally connects everyone to everyone in the experimental music scene. It’s pretty much Paul Erdös in LP form. Seriously, how did it take so long for these two restless experimentalists to find each other and play together, let alone commit their music to an album? And though the resulting work does not precisely break new ground, it is an interesting addition to two long and distinguished careers in experimental music.
The Natural Order is out on November 18, via Northern Spy.
The Natural Order tracklisting:
01. That Unforgettable Line
02. Delirium Perhaps
03. Dance First, Think Later
04. Faults of His Feet
05. Colour of an Eye Half Seen
06. Turning Away in Time
07. The Welts, the Squeaks, the Belts, the Shrieks
08. Butterflies of Vertigo
09. Be Again, Be Again
10. Accommodating the Mess