[16 November 2009]
Here are the names: Oren Ambarchi, Peter Rehberg, Christian Fennesz, Pimmon (Paul Gough), and Keith Rowe, the last an improvisational guitarist and electronic artist who’s been making music for longer than most of the others have been alive. If none of those names means anything to you, then Afternoon Tea won’t do anything for you, either. For those who do recognize someone—anyone, really—on that illustrious list, Afternoon Tea is required listening. Afternoon Tea‘s original release happened in 2000, one day of which is also when the entirety of this re-release was recorded. Rather than include the day’s tweaking here, the added context of that night’s live performance is added in the form of two live tracks and one short track, previously released on an obscure compilation, that combines the day’s and the night’s improvisations.
There’s little difference, really, between the “studio” tracks and the “live” tracks; given a snippet of one or the other, a listener would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Both the “Afternoon Tea” tracks and the “Live Tea” tracks demonstrate the rare collaboration that sounds like an exercise in restraint. Largely unidentifiable sounds slowly burble up from the ether, approaching and retreating like hostile insects afraid to be noticed. Slowly—ever so slowly—they start to layer on top of one another, combining to create a tapestry whose complexity reflects the many minds at work but whose minimalism keeps it from ever sounding like utter chaos. Those who’ve enjoyed Afternoon Tea in the past may appreciate the extension of the experience that comes from this release’s bonus tracks. Still, it’s those who’ve never heard it who are most likely to appreciate this fascinating little one-day-only meeting of the minds.