Not for the faint of heart, but more for those of us who think that the late great David Tudor got a bit 'easy listening' towards the end, and Derek Bailey may very possibly be the G-d that others of us used to think in the 1960s Eric Clapton was. Utilizing Joe Maneri's 72-tone 'micro' scale, Höstfält lifts into Eliot Sharp Land and rips off a piece of it to make it his own. "Alive on the Dead Screen" shreds and distorts over a droning, howling background while "Icons" (track number '30' -- so much for truth in advertising) quick-picks through a seemingly decaying landscape, much as might Flatt and Scruggs on Mars for the first 3:22 after the oxygen ran out. Beyond rapturous. "Dialogue" from the 'Lighters' suite pits Höstfält improvising against a tape of himself (the 'live electronica' mentioned in the credits, possibly - no, no 4/4 drumbeats! - but Chris Cutler has been known to do this as well, duet with himself from an earlier time frame, and to equally diverting effect), very sharp and 'on point,' while the 'Major Changes' sequence moves more into John Fahey territory - thankfully previous to his discovered fascination with the 'slide' method - with well-thought-out and absorbing results. In fact, this entire 40-minute live recording (from the Knitting Factory, NYC, 8-29-02) reaches that peak early and stays there with very little difficulty.
Certainly one advantage of using a microtonal scale is that you will get new runs of notes, new chordal matrices (hell, how can you avoid them!?), thusly you're almost assured of never again seeming to have quoted "Lush Life" when you had no intention of so doing. As Frank Zappa might have said, "So you get completely different entertainment every time!" Works for me. For an illustration note "Roll," last section of the suite 'Eight Variations,' a furtively smooth run of cacophonous tones that fit together only because Mr. Höstfält and the listener want them to. That's the only way I can think to describe it. Arbitrary? What art isn't?
As I've said, those intrigued by the theory but horrified by the practice of Pat Metheny and Derek Bailey's THE SIGN OF 4 may be more 'up to' this simply becuse the pieces are much shorter and focused. High-density, highly logical in a completely different way and highly recommended.
by Kenneth Egbert