(Remote Viewers)

Another round, another record derived from the impossibility of doing things normally because of that damn virus. Last year, The Remote Viewers twisted their “score writing > rehearsal > recording” routine to offer a decidedly different program in both sonority and dynamics, but above all in terms of audience expectation. John Edwards took seven compositions by David Petts and fed them to a computer, attributing to the parts all sorts of timbres: electronic, synthetic, noisy or merely concrete. The ensuing tracks are interspersed with solitary interludes by each of the participants. With his double bass, Edwards is the lone non-saxophonist; in addition to Petts there are Sue Lynch, Caroline Kraabel and Adrian Northover. The solos were recorded in disparate settings: under a bridge, in living rooms, in a public venue or in a “secret stone bunker”. While expressing the transient interiority of the contributors, they also symbolize the necessity to nurture creative strategies during an enforced seclusion.

Edwards’ treatments have engendered chunks of material falling somewhere between the acousmaticism of labels like Empreintes DIGITALes and the fantasies of someone improvising and assembling lucidly insane snippets on a hi-tech workstation. The Remote Viewers have never winked at what might be palatable to the average ear, always preferring to walk across off-key bramble bushes. This particular move, and the peculiarly articulated music born from it, confirm the uniqueness of the ensemble’s perspective. No room is left for the enjoyment of a phrase, or the quiet savoring of a given timbral coloration. The brain tries to fight against the hypervelocity of a chain of events, or gets illusory comfort from barely familiar environments turning out to be genuine traps. Some of the components can be deduced, but putting a finger on their meaning is a whole other story. Mysterious recesses and compelling contrapuntal junctions abound; every step must be careful. We’re reminded of how useful staying home can be for productive experimentation detached from nostalgic schmaltz and “let’s stick together in adversity” falsehoods.

Despite the hopes of the powers that be, sound-related bright ideas are not going to die anytime soon. Let The City Sleep is an indicative title: there’s no need for forced socialization to make music that may not be as aesthetically agreeable as the “norm” requires, but certainly stimulates the surviving functioning neurons in those who use them for its analysis. Besides, of course, confirming the esteem for the people who brought the stuff to our attention.