Fred Frith / Evan Parker – Hello, I Must Be Going


Both this album’s title and the photos adorning its internal cover seem to hint at the necessity of finding a way to overcome impediments of any kind, thus avoiding the interruption of an essential flux. As old masters of the improvisational game, Fred Frith and Evan Parker know this need very well. Although this performance, captured at the 2014 edition of the Victoriaville Festival, doesn’t really seem to break new ground — never a given in the short span of a single evening — it still emphasizes the unique characteristics of artists whose reputation has deservedly grown over the decades.

Each of the four tracks features what’s expected from the pair’s live embodiment. Frith’s resonant palette is as always efficient; he conjures up all kinds of dynamics and shades by rubbing, hitting, plucking, bowing and paradiddling long-suffering strings, a veritable multitude of objects and techniques at the service of the overall vibe. Especially notable are the expert use of the volume pedal, and the massive subsonic reverberations providing the meat in a couple of wicked crescendos. Parker adapts effortlessly to the electric environment, interacting with typical intelligence. In this context, his phraseology privileges the gradual modification of reiterating fragments and the employment of fluctuating snippets of (unsingable) melody. The soul-wrenching raucous spirals defining the reedist’s most stringent explorations of the self are only glimpsed, in favor of a somewhat improved contrapuntal intelligibility. Several moments of quiet contemplation and a few touches of dry humor (one of them causing Frith to laugh loudly during a section of “Red Thread”) enhance the partnership’s creative values.

The note left by Hello, I Must Be Going reads like an invitation to keep the mind focused and the body trained. Not every day one wakes up ready to fight, or just willing to patiently translate quotidian nonsense into significance. But through constant discipline and the capacity of remaining “open” to the streams and interferences that inform the instants of existence, a method will be instinctively developed to identify stimulating accents and momentous flashes. Small steps of evolution can occur even in the ambit of something that, on a first attempt, does not appear to elicit fundamental questions. By keeping this music with you day in, day out, the absorption of its messages will be facilitated, without the urgency of a lookout for groundbreaking gestures.