Fred Frith

Step Across The Border

East Side Digital, 1992

I've heard nothing but praise for the film to which this is the soundtrack. I have yet to see the film, but now that I've heard this album I really want to see it! This is 74 minutes of prime Frith, in various contexts and with various groups of musicians. As such, it's a great overview for the unfamiliar. It's not a comprehensive anthology, by any means; just for starters, neither his work with Henry Kaiser nor the French,Frith,Kaiser,Thompson material is represented. However, it does have material from Skeleton Crew (which really makes me want to hear more!), Massacre, and from his solo albums "Gravity" and "Cheap at Half the Price". Other collaborators include a surprisingly mellow John Zorn, Iva Bittova and Pavel Fajt, Tim Hodgkinson and many others less notorious.

The material ranges from quite structured songs to what seem to be free improvisations. I'm pretty picky about my free improv -- I like a certain amount of structure, whether intended or apparent -- and I enjoy virtually everything on this album. "Lost and Found" (with Bittova and Fajt) is a gentle tune reminiscent of Eastern European folk music; "Norrgarden Nyvla" sounds remarkably like old King Crimson; "Birds" starts off sounding like Appalachian fiddling before turning into something stranger. While a few tracks don't really go anywhere, they're short enough (there are 26 tracks on this 74 minute CD) that they work as interludes.

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