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RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom

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Cutler And Frith biography
Chris Cutler and Fred Frith first worked together when Cutler joined Henry Cow in 1971. Their first recorded joint composition was on Henry Cow's In Praise Of Learning, and following the demise of Henry Cow they formed Art Bears along with Dagmar Krause. There have also been other projects involving both musicians, including Aqsak Maboul. They have also worked extensively as a duo playing free improvisations all over the world, beginning just before the end of Henry Cow in 1978 (at Reading university), and at the time of writing 3 CDs of their improvised music were in print.

As well as being highly accomplished performers on their chosen instruments, they have both taken an innovative approach to the design and sound of their equipment. Frith has built a number of tabletop guitars which he plays in all kinds of unconventional ways, and uses a range of devices to modify the sound. Chris Cutler has his electric drumkit, a unique set up in which every piece of the kit is fitted with a mike or pick up and run through a mixer and effects pedals. This means that it's not always clear which instrument is producing which noise, and gives both players access to a far wider range of sounds and textures than you'd expect from a guitar/drums set up. The three CDs feature performances recorded between the late 70s (Prague) and the late 90s (Verona), and some had previously been issued on vinyl.

As bizarre as it can be, Cutler and Frith's music is not unprecedented; an improvised music scene already existed in the UK before they started working together, and their music is clearly influenced by artists like AMM and Derek Bailey. What sets them apart is that they were the first generation of free improvisrs to have their roots in rock music rather than in jazz. Like any good improvisors they're not afraid of silence, but they are equally happy making an enormous electric noise. Probably the best album to start with is 2 Gentlemen in Verona, which showcases their dexterity, versatility and phenomenal interplay. Recommended strongly to those with a taste for the unusual and extreme.

Why this artist must be listed in :
2 of the most important figures in RIO/Avant prog playing freely improvised rock music.

Live in Moscow, Prague and Washington (1990)
Live in Trondheim, Berlin and Limoges (1994)
2 Gentlemen in Verona (2000)

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CUTLER AND FRITH discography

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CUTLER AND FRITH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CUTLER AND FRITH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.00 | 1 ratings
Live in Moscow, Prague and Washington
0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Trondheim, Berlin, Limoges
3.95 | 2 ratings
2 Gentlemen In Verona
2.00 | 1 ratings
The Stone: Issue Two

CUTLER AND FRITH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

CUTLER AND FRITH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CUTLER AND FRITH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live in Moscow, Prague and Washington by CUTLER AND FRITH album cover Live, 1990
2.00 | 1 ratings

Live in Moscow, Prague and Washington
Cutler And Frith RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Dr. Judkins

— First review of this album —
2 stars Fantastic moments abound throughout this album, the first of (so far) four by two of the biggest names in Avant-prog and experimental music history. There are times during the over one hour worth of live improvised material on this disc, that Frith and Cutler make beautiful, unexpected, and absolutely delightful music, at least for those familiar with their hectic and unconventional style. The unfortunate thing is that there's a lot of "down time" throughout the album, in which, as improvisation is wont to yield, nothing particularly exciting or unheard of really happens. To hear the best music on this disc, sitting through a lot of less than great (at some times, dare I say even "mediocre") improvisation is required.

This is hardly a major problem and doesn't really affect the listenability of the album on the whole. And as I said, there are plenty of wonderfully creative moments on this album to warrant playing it multiple times, and the sound textures of the wide array of guitars that Frith plays are definitely worth hearing. But these two have done much, much better things in their long and storied careers. This is a rare non-essential piece to that puzzle.

 2 Gentlemen In Verona by CUTLER AND FRITH album cover Live, 2000
3.95 | 2 ratings

2 Gentlemen In Verona
Cutler And Frith RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Syzygy
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This is the most recent and probably the most immediate and accessible of Cutler and Frith's albums as an improvising duo. Like many recent ReR releases this is basically one long 43 minute improvisation subdivided into shorter segments, with a little editing but no overdubbing, plus an encore.

It's surprising to realise that the sounds here all emanated from electric guitar and drums (with the odd vocal from Frith), although Chris Cutler's innovative electric kit and Frith's unorthodox approach to the guitar make for a highly varied sonic palette, plus there's the usual flotsam and jetsam in the mix. The music shifts subtly but quite rapidly in mood and tempo throughout, and for every burst of avant rock noise there's a passage of almost conventional melodic or rhythmic playing, even including a brief and ironic pseudo miltary march. Frith's vocal interjections work with rather than against the flow of the music, and in general there's a sense that the players were in harmony with their audience and each other, a marked contrast to the scarily intense Prague recording made 20 years earlier. This doesn't mean that there's no aggression, but rather that it's controlled and chanelled rather than on the verge of escalating into a full scale riot. Also impressive is the sense of structure that can be perceived across the whole piece, something else that's not always obvious in their other improvisations.

This album is perhaps the closest that they have come to creating 'free rock'. Their earlier albums were informed by free jazz and contemporary avant garde music, but on this outing those influences are worn lightly. Electric guitar and drums are the primary colours of rock music, and that's how rhey're used on this album. It's still challenging stuff, but without the shock tactics often associated with free improvisation. Recommended to curious and adventurous listeners.

Thanks to syzygy for the artist addition.

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