Institute of Contemporary Arts, Sun 30 Nov 97
8pm; £8
Timescales *****
Encore ****

Chris Cutler: drum kit, assorted objects, electronics
Fred Frith: guitar
John Tilbury: piano
Frank Schulte: turntables, sampler, synthesizer, effects

It would be arrogant to pretend I understood "Timescales", but I certainly enjoyed it! The last in the Zwischenspiel [Interplay] series of new music concerts at the ICA, bringing together English and German musicians, "Timescales" was led by Chris Cutler, a regular Anglo-German collaborator. Cutler was a central part of the band Henry Cow—another Henry Cow member, Tim Hodgkinson, led "Braille", an earlier concert in the same series—and it is from what may have been the inspiration for that band's name, avant garde composer Henry Cowell, that the idea for "Timescales" came. To quote Cutler in the programme:

I would be grateful if anyone could explain the theory to me in more detail and the result is very difficult to describe. There were fast, very rhythmic parts—usually led by Cutler or Frith, but occasionally Schulte—and more ambient parts in alteration. This, with next to nothing apparent in the way of melodic or harmonic development, nevertheless led us through a lengthy piece very satisfactorily. I am at a loss to describe the music any further!

Each performer wore an earpiece, presumably supplying Cutler's "private aural cues", and the quartet played strongly throughout, also returning for a short encore (sans earpieces). Cutler largely played his acoustic set during the rhythmic parts, but made more use of his usual Cutler-y elsewhen, bowing small pieces of polystyrene or rattling chains. He played the finale using rolled-up newspapers as drum sticks. These disintegrated in the process and he switched to just rustling the paper at the end. Using just one guitar throughout, but with numerous effects, Frith mostly played his instrument flat on his lap; a favoured technique was to rest a small tin—like those for boiled sweets—on the strings and then bowing the tin. He also made use of brushes to play the guitar, playing fast leads with a shoe brush or creating an ambient texture with a paint brush. Schulte used a variety of samples, from rhythms to spoken word, both coming to the fore and adding textures to the others' leads. He also added some keyboard parts. Tilbury was usually unintrusive on piano, adding notes very effectively without ever dominating.

Henry Potts, 25 Jan 98

Originally posted to rec.music.progressive and rec.music.classical.contemporary.
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