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Beta-lactam Ring mt218, 44:53.

Review by Steve Koenig

Forget the blurb in the press release that claims this ensemble ranges from AACM to Milford Graves and Han Bennink. This is good, but not that.

Recorded at Les Instants Chavirés in France, this noisy, improvisatory quartet wreaks fun havoc. The best-known members are percussionist Aaron Moore, known (but not to me until now) from Volcano The Bear, and master violinist Dan Warburton, probably best known from the group Return of The New Thing (Leo Records), his work on Crouton and other small labels, as well as his music journalism in The Wire and his most excellent magazine Incidentally, Warburton's speech was used by Luc Ferrari in his Far-West News: Episodes 2 & 3 (Blue Chopsticks BC16). Completing the foursome are Alexandre Bellenger on turntables and Arnaud Rivière on mixing board and electrophone.

The first of two extended pieces, "The beginning of the end," starts off with bowed cymbals, then wonderfully executed pointillistic percussion and plucks more AMM than AACM. The percussion seems to set on the ensemble. Samples come in of crying voices, then a repeating phrase "Who are you?" accented in different ways, including screamed and processed, then big chunks of samples material; for me the only weak moments on the disc.

Then the piece gets into a really noisy groove, with violin stretched and pulled from video game sounds to Hollywood sentiment and Arabic riff. Other than the previous caveat, "The beginning…" is totally enjoyable, but even at that, a mere prelude to the sheer energy that fades in on "The end of the beginning."

"The end…" is a marvel of dense, loud improvisation with an irrepressible momentum: a total joy of a piece, with special props to Warburton and Moore. It may not have the variety of the opener, but it is inexorable.

The disc is housed in a thick, four-fold, laminated cardboard jacket, akin to the type used for children's picturebooks, most appropriate for its brightly designed cover collage. When browsing the shops, ask the clerk for help, as the title and artists appear nowhere on the outside of the jacket.

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