cd Bea – Will Montgomery, the Wire

Specificity is clearly important to kaffe Matthews: this live album was recorded in “a particular place, with a particular audience, at a particular kind of day, after a particular kind of journey”. For most home listeners, all this means nothing. The uniqueness of the event is lost. So does it matter if Matthews tells us that 80 per cent of the discís editing was done live on stage? Yes, it would seem, with such conceptual packages, because recorded music exists in an important but shadowy relation to the circumstances of its creation. Matthews is bent on exploring this suggestive area.

As with her cd Ann album, the sleeve urges, “grab, select, subvert and game with the consequences”. The disc’s five performance excerpts are divided over 26 tracks and listeners are invited to constantly reshape them, using the CD playerís random or program button, partially blurring the distinction between the live event and armchair listening.

But enough game theory; what’s it like? Though the only sound source is Matthews’s violin, the range of her sampler transformations gives her access to an enormous sound palette. She gets a long way from the pure tones of the violin, spilling into rich droning microtonal freeways of sound. But the instruments irreducible scrape remains a vital part of the texture. Matthews’s music is at once uncompromising and strangely approachable, and you canít say that about many electronic improvisers.

Will Montgomery (August 1998)