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Reviews

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury
Enough Still Not To Know Euan Andrews , November 10th, 2015 11:02

You have to learn to focus on the silence, to adjust your listening threshold so that the dark, empty voids become the prime reason to dwell in this place. Concentration is required here and for much of this grand four-disc set Rowe and Tilbury perform in such a manner way beyond any doctrines of music being "...the space between the notes". Here, the improvising duo have reduced down to the point where they seem to be playing the space itself.

Enough Still Not To Know comes packaged as a black, impenetrable monolith. You hold this beautifully austere box in your hands and it seems to swallow up the air and light around it, becoming an absence of being yet weighty and dense with heavy vacuum. When you press play on 'First Part', you hear creaks and rubs, hisses and very occasional stuttered clusters of piano chords or shortwave fragments of charged electricity. It's a bit like listening to movements in the shadows, phantom gestures which are hard to decipher and inscrutable in their intentions. But if you start to focus on the silence, then you realise that it is these passages which are the punctuation and marker points and not the direct conversation between Rowe and Tilbury.

As part of AMM and multiple other improvising collectives of the past fifty years, these two players have worked to such an extent that one can only marvel at the level of expertise in their craft and how they listen and respond to each other. I once saw John Tilbury perform as part of a trio improvising a piece which took no account of the throbbing blare of urban nightlife pounding at the venue walls. Instead it only seemed to make him and his colleagues that evening more determined to reduce every motion to the tiniest detail, like focusing on breathing in a hurricane. We as the audience were welcome to join them in that space, but it was for us as individuals to decide whether to open up to that concentrated microcosm or allow the intrusive rhythm and grind of outside forces to overwhelm us.

Its much the same listening here. Created in collaboration with visual artist Kjell Bjorgeengen for a video installation, this music was recorded over two days in a London studio. On listening the first few times, you may wish there were concrete visual evidence of what took place during these sessions as the music is initially so difficult to get a handle on. 'First Part' is the sparsest of the four discs, rumbles and scrapes which seem barely to exist. Then, Tilbury may suddenly produce a single note of unhesitating deliberation. The swathes of silence only seem to intensify with these rapid escalations which vanish as quickly as they appear. The ear searches for sound as the eye yearns for light, hoping for context in which to place these occurrences. But none is offered beyond what you may or may not hear, each of the four parts coming to an abrupt stop as if indicating that enough has been said for now.

'Second Part' feels spikier and more invasive, tears and cracks appearing on an empty canvas with at one point an almighty rupture as though space has been ripped open in a violent birthing. By 'Third Part', the silence has become like a warm cocoon in which shattered pieces of shrapnel and detritus float in almost joyful abandon. Somehow, 'Third Part' feels the most friendly and accessible towards any listeners out there, a circumstance not repeated by the brief 'Fourth Part' which comparatively crams texture and spatial mass into its short running time and seems more spat-out coda than finale.

But beginnings and endings are not what this music is about. If you take the time and patience to sit and listen to Enough Still Not To Know in its entirety, then you will hear something remarkable evolve out of a group dialogue. This is music which in its existence creates a three-dimensional listening space and which more than deserves your care and attention.

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