“Sometimes the waiting before you enter, or contribute a sound, is because you’re seriously having to think about how and whether and why, what you should contribute at any given moment. You’re listening all the time to everything, and it’s a question of how can I enhance or contradict this, or change this, all those kinds of questions, which with us have to be instantly resolved or partially resolved – often they’re not. On a bad night there might be an accumulation of problems which might en up unresolved at the end.”
– John Tilbury(1)

When last we checked in with AMM bootlegs they were reconvening as a musical unit and seemingly working out just what that would be. The next bootleg that I have been able to find was from seven years on and thus a lot of development was missed.  In 1980 John Tilbury was added to the group as a member primarily playing piano.  Then in 1986 Rohan de Saram, a classical ‘cello player, was added to the group. Throughout the late ’80s Lou Gare flirted with the group and apparently rejoined the group to form a quintet again: “…for to date we have still not recorded the current quintet line-up of de Saram, Gare, Prévost, Rowe and Tilbury”(2).  They never would record that lineup though there are one disc each featuring de Saram and Gare along with the core trio. However this bootleg appears to be that quintet and thus serves as a document of that short lived lineup.

AMM – London 1 March 1987

Begins with cello and horn honking from Rohan de Saram and (most likely) Lou Gare. Individual piano notes are struck and allowed to dye out. Into this sparse territory comes a grinding roar that I can only assume is from Rowe’s electronics, bowed guitar perhaps distorted beyond recognition. Some heavy percussion begins. Really noisy for this period of AMM. This backs down a bit in volume, a few sax runs come in and some drum kit work. This kind of turns into a Free Jazz freakout after a bit, even relentless noise from Rowe can’t obscure wailing tenor and a serious drum explosion. Tilbury is either buried in the mix or laying out. I’ve never been much of a fan of Gare’s playing with AMM after the ’60s group and this is pretty clear example of why. He isn’t playing  AMMMusic he’s playing free improv. The piano becomes more obvious with pounded chords and glissandos, as does a skittering sound from de Saram, that was there all along under the strang und durm.  Gare at last gives it a rest for a bit and it is just mechanical sounds from Rowe, the scittery bowing of de Saram and clanks from Prévost. A nice segment reminds you that its still AMM. A lot less dense even with a decent amount of activity feels like a reaction to the blowout a moment ago.

Gare comes back in as Rohan drastically cuts back his wash of bowing. Short tones from the sax, Eddie picks up this metallic pounding and Rohan again does his scratchy bowing but much higher and quieter. The tones increase, the density rises, Prévost now working the cymbals.  A low bowed drone from de Saram as Gare works the upper register and almost everyone else drops out. A spattering of notes from Tibury and the occasional single drum beat from Prévost. Rowe seems to have retreated from all this activity. It winds down a bit until its just Gare wailing to himself. A discordant chord from Tilbury and a strained wailing sound, perhaps a bowed cymbal or rubbed drum head to contrast with Gare’s “solo”.  At last Gare backs off and this enters much more spacious territory. A twangy wiry sound, percussive rattles and a low grinding hum come in and out along with a bit of audience coughing. A nice good bit of this, subdued crashes, a bell the sound of a pipe rolling on a cement floor, a crushing low bowed scrape on the cello (must be a contact mic on that cello), and other minute sounds. A great section in what’s so far been a not very AMM sounding set.

A low bowing comes in, continuous and providing a base in witch clanks of percussion, and short single tones from the sax rise above. They continue on in this erratic messed drone for a while, eventually this oscillating high pitched feed back comes in and persists along with this non rhythmic bowing and rubbed percussion. There are a couple of tones from a bell and it cuts off.

“Obviously AMM in the late eighties is not breaking new ground, and we content ourselves (as do some of our contemporaries) with the fact that much that we innovated has been incorporated into the common domain.” – AMMMusic Liner Notes(3)

This quote from Prévost is interesting in that I think most people would not disagree if he had specified “AMM in the late nineties“. However in context to the ’60s AMM it is mostly true. In the 60s they were exploring territory that had heretofore been uncharted. The break in the ’70s more or less signaled an end to those explorations. When the reformed the group in the ’80s I think there was a different goal entirely.  The parameters of AMMMusic had been set in the 60s and the later groups were applying them in a variety of contexts. They were still questioning but it was no longer the nature of music itself instead they were interested in contexts and absorption. Can we bring in a non improvising classical musician, can the music absorb tonal saxaphonics, how far can it be pared down, or distorted and still be AMMMusic.


1)  Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
2) The Crypt liner notes by Eddie Prévost,1992 (Matchless Recordings)
3) AMMMusic liner notes by Eddie Prévost,1988 (ReR MegaCorp/Matchless)
4) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire #132 (February 1995)
5) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
6) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995