fred lonberg-holm – site-specific

this is perhaps the album in the collection that is furthest from music as a generally accepted medium and expression. and i think i have previously said that i’d happened upon the most conceptually interesting thing – not so, if this is to be considered.

firstly, it’s just fred on his cello and twelve different guitarists with whom he recorded one song in each of their homes – undoubtedly scattered around chicago. with those instruments, and perhaps some other “found” elements such as a ringing phone, there also occurs a small amount of what could be considered percussion. sometimes the cello is at the centre, other times the guitar; yet others are an indecipherable level playing field.

secondly, the title of the release implies, along with some cover imagery, that these are more akin to field recordings. as though these are the natural sounds that come out of these musicians and instruments, and this is purely documentary and happenstance (though the planning that occurred to sequence these recordings perfectly over thirteen days belies that conclusion).

thirdly, and most significant (and noticeable), is the fact that none of the recordings were remixed, dubbed or “produced” after they were recorded. this is evident in the sheer volume of other environmental sounds. and for that, it’s almost entirely unique.

aside from a fascinating experiment, of sorts, i’m not sure what else to make of this album. it’s not even background sound that you’d have playing. were i deliberately seeking a purpose for it, that would perhaps be to score a slightly disturbing piece of interpretive theatre or film.

it’s often angular, jarring; mentally and physiologically unsettling. it’s what i remember doing on my cello when i was young when i didn’t want to “follow the rules” as i was learning – making discordant sound.

and yet there are spectacularly gorgeous moments as well, such as the performances with michael krassner and charles kim. yes, those names are familiar because, along with a few other collaborators here, they were all variously involved in the work of boxhead ensemble. i think the best is the creation that blends song with experiment, with helen mirra, which takes it onto par with other outstanding lyricless music.

to be fair, if i had to wish for something that wasn’t here, it would be a duet with mick turner. otherwise it stands as what is probably unparalleled in popular music – a genuinely ideal historic document of the basic almost-linguistic interactions of contemporary musicians of the late 1990s in a particular location.

site-specific indeed.


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