AMM At the Roundhouse


Anomalous ICES 01

This is the first installment of what will hopefully be a series of releases documenting Harvey Matusow's "International Carnival of Experimental Sound" festival at London's Roundhouse in 1972 (the story of which is told by Eric Lanzillotta in his liner notes), and a major release it is too. Two brief extracts from this concert, which took place on August 22nd that year, were released as a 7" single on Incus, but this is the first time the performance has been available in its entirety (in quad sound too, if you have ProLogic decoding technology, whatever that is). Mention AMM to most folk today and the names of Keith Rowe and John Tilbury will probably spring to mind, but it's worth recalling that in the mid 1970s, following some internal changes in socio-political ideals, the group consisted of only two musicians: percussionist Eddie Prevost and tenor saxophonist Lou Gare. When Rowe rejoined AMM in 1976, Gare himself bowed out – "I could not go back after the freedom of the duo", he writes in a brief postscript to Prevost's notes to this disc. Gare continued to perform in and around Exeter, where he moved in 1976, and even rejoined AMM briefly later, but in recent years has tended to concentrate on other interests, notably teaching Aikido and making and repairing stringed instruments (if you're in Devon and your fiddle needs a twiddle, go to

Prevost is right to describe the duo's work as "decidedly non-jazz"; true, apart from the instrumentation itself (Interstellar Space inevitably comes to mind), one can find certain points of comparison – Prevost plays his snare drum like Sunny Murray uses his cymbals (think of "Real" on the BYG Actuel album Sunshine) to set up complex fields of vibration, extending the concept of rhythm far beyond the traditional confines of time-keeping – but as writer Wayne Spencer has pointed out, Gare and Prevost are at their most radical when not playing. Or, rather, when the level of volume and event-density drops to something more akin to today's lowercase improv. "In the silences and pregnant pauses that were a characteristic of our performances you can hear doors swinging open and closed, a child's voice echoes in the distance, and there are other indistinguishable human murmurings and nameless isolated clonks", writes Prevost. "At the end of our performance – nothing. No applause, no cat-calls. Merely the empty sound of indifference."

Small audiences for improvised music are nothing new, though it's hard to imagine music of this quality being greeted with stony silence today – not that one could expect a tenor saxophone / percussion duet to sound anything like this anymore. This particular incarnation of AMM (also documented on the Matchless album To Hear and Back Again) was neither ahead of nor behind its time, but quite simply not of its time. The high-speed clatter of Pauls Lovens and Lytton (not to mention Roger Turner and numerous others), which has become the accepted (I'm tempted to say "traditional") way of playing percussion in a free improvised context, is notably absent from Prevost's vocabulary. Similarly, Gare's tenor playing bears absolutely no relation either to his immediate predecessors in free jazz (Coltrane, Ayler et al.) or to the then-emergent extended techniques of Parker and Brötzmann. Nor is it a precursor of today's saxophone language: multiphonics, key clicks, breathy flutters and splutters are conspicuously absent, as are cathartic blasts of screaming noise. If Prevost had frisbeed his cymbals at the ceiling or destroyed a potted plant or two ŕ la Han Bennink, or if Gare had blown his saxophone through his nose (to quote Zorn) and burst a few blood vessels ŕ la Brötzmann, perhaps the handful of people present in the cavernous space of the Roundhouse would have reacted. But that's not what AMM music has ever been about. Prevost and Gare make no concessions to popular fads and fancies. "It is perhaps difficult for people now to appreciate how important the music was to us", Prevost writes. I seriously doubt that anyone listening attentively to these 47 minutes of extraordinary music could fail to appreciate the importance of this magnificent document.

~Dan Warburton

Posted by dan on March 24, 2004 8:07 AM

The AMM trio configuration of the last couple of decades has had the most effect on me, but I've found Gare to be a thoroughly enjoyable component where I've heard him (Laminal, The Nameless Uncarved Block (and the 1966 record to a considerably less extent)). At this point I'm itching to buy this Roundhouse disc and To Hear and Back Again for some new perspective (missing links in this listener's case) on the whole AMM deal.

Oh yeah, maybe it's only in this circle of musicheads, but does it seem that this group is pretty much Tilbury and Rowe-centric, with Prevost not credited with near as much responibility for their sound? Eddie's the foundation, where all three can be credited for their own ways of lyricism, IMO... but every one of their records seems to begin and end (figuratively speaking, in some ways) with the sounds he pours out. Prevost's the fucking glue. Hopefully no AMM worshippers will kneejerk at that... While I'd agree -- and of course the musicians have talked about it at length -- that there can be no "star" in a group like this, it strikes me as odd that I never read much about Prevost's role in that big sound.

Posted by: al at March 27, 2004 2:03 AM

Prevost's the fucking glue. Hopefully no AMM worshippers will kneejerk at that...

I think you're dead right. Prevost's work as a percussionist has been frequently overlooked, with perhaps the exception of his bowed cymbal work. In my book he represents another direction in improvised percussion (as opposed to the wham bam throw it on the kit NOW acrobatics of Bennink, Lovens, Turner et al. - all of whom I love too), one that Burkhard Beins (and few otehrs) has picked up on: a sense of percussion more as friction than percussion and a concentration on a relatively restricted palette of timbres.

Posted by: dan warburton at March 28, 2004 9:11 PM

I was recently listening again to the Japo AMM III album where Keith does some really risky lines and things .... i wonder how people hear that ?


Posted by: Akchote Noel at March 29, 2004 2:15 AM

I didnt know both this cds, the roundhouse and this JAPO thing?

I guess maybe i can find the Roundhouse in Paris shop, what label is the JAPO on btw?

want to check out this risky Keith Rowe

Posted by: alexandre at March 29, 2004 2:36 AM


Posted by: cunny at March 29, 2004 2:42 AM


YES JAPO is ECM sideline

843206 AMM III
It had been an ordinary enough day in Pueblo, Colorado

December 1979 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg Martin Wieland Steve Lake and AMM III

Posted by: Akchote Noel at March 29, 2004 2:52 AM

But still .... AMM III Japo
is there someone to find Structures and Theories for this kind of phrasing ?

that would be interesting somehow .... quite close to Harmolody theories then ... with Ornette s theories on things but the reality we all know and enough musicians who played around have said how it works .... THOUGH sounds Great

Posted by: Akchote Noel at March 29, 2004 2:55 AM

Yeah there are a lot of notes in that Japo disc. Keith hates that one, though.

Posted by: Jason at March 29, 2004 6:11 AM

Does he ? i never asked him ....
originally that was my first one AMM album ( cause you could find easily these JAPO issues ) and i thought that was really dodgy but the other day and sort of reacting to the quiet darkness i listened to it again and really thought at least things were not that under control .... to my short knowledge that is the only album i ve ever heard of Rowe phrasing straight or so ... ?

Real interesting to read all these comments and reviews .... especially as my own experience in the last years is precisely the other way around .... recording the first Luc Ferrari improvised music album ( at age 73 ... quite a goo start ) a composer going improv. Still the mix ( if not the whole album ) sounds 100 % Ferrari ! and we did not talk about it before we Luc just organised a set up with hand mics in the studio plus gave a generic title before each improv


Posted by: Akchote Noel at March 29, 2004 6:26 AM

was keith rowe ever a "straight" guitarist?
somehow i tend to believe he only approached guitar the "flat" way?
i must get that AMM from JAPO?

i heard a bit of this record with ferrari in a shop in paris, who is the third musician already?
is it quite recent this recording?

in fact, hello noęl,
from alexandre in Paris

"my precious trash"!

Posted by: alexandre at March 29, 2004 6:48 AM

was keith rowe ever a "straight" guitarist?
somehow i tend to believe he only approached guitar the "flat" way?
i must get that AMM from JAPO?

i heard a bit of this record with ferrari in a shop in paris, who is the third musician already?
is it quite recent this recording?

in fact, hello noęl,
from alexandre in Paris

"my precious trash"!

Posted by: alexandre at March 29, 2004 6:49 AM

sorry mistake
i posted twice same stuff

Posted by: alexandre at March 29, 2004 7:13 AM

Hello Alexandre
Noel mais de Vienne donc ....

I think Eddie Prevost mentions early Jazz experience with Keith and Cardew in his book but i ve never heard any and i d say whatever ... i m not that into digging things

I ve heard really amzing straight playing from Derek for example but he did play this music a lot before

i m not fascinated by that either ... Lol Coxhill has a huge knowledge and interest for that he plays Swing Bop or new orleans beautifully
i guess Dörner and of course many others too
do so .... it s not a key point to me

actually the new album of mine with various archives material on Blue Chopsticks to come out has many standards on it but here again it s in a certain frame

IMPRO MICRO ACOUSTIQUE with Ferrari and Roland Auzet who worked with Xenakis a lot
is alsoi on


Posted by: Akchote Noel at March 29, 2004 7:26 AM

I don't understand how playing more conventionally is judged to be "risky", when that's all that people in this scene did for decades. to me, cutting out the unnecessary playing, self-editing on the fly, is much more interesting when it's accomplished successfully (which is rare, as in all kinds of music). "energy" playing, leaving no space, is just dull to my ears at this point, I can't listen to it anymore. I'm not saying that should be true for everyone, or even for anyone else, but that's how I feel.

I haven't heard AMM III in years, but it's true that Keith's not proud of it. it's only in the last few years he's really had a chance to fully express himself on record outside of AMM. for instance, he told me and Toshi about Weather Sky that it "is a kind of music that I've waited to make for 30 years, but there was never anyone who felt the need to do it".

Posted by: Jon Abbey at March 29, 2004 7:28 AM

For an example of Prevost essaying his skills as the "Blakey of Brixton" (i.e., as a relatively striaght-forward jazz time-keeper), hear Matchless 01/02, the LIVE quartets from 1977 with Gerry Gold (trumpet), Geoff Hawkins (sax) and Marcio Mattos (bass).

Posted by: Joe at March 29, 2004 7:50 AM

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