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Derek Bailey & Milo Fine - Scale Points On The Fever Curve

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Artist: Derek Bailey & Milo Fine

Album: Scale Points On The Fever Curve

Label: Emanem

Review date: May. 11, 2004

The high priest of British improvisation and innovation launches yet another salvo in his lonely quest to reconfigure the language and boundaries of contemporary music. This time out he is joined by one man band, Milo Fine, writer and long time stalwart of the North American free music scene who, on this occasion, limits himself to clarinets (B-flat and E-flat), electronic keyboard and drums.

Four pieces of hardcore improvisation on show here (two presented in their entirety and two shorter excerpts) document Bailey and Fine’s first performance as a duo, which took place in front of an enraptured crowd in the basement of a small north London pub, one of a series they played together during a six-week period in 2003.

Whether or not you enjoy this recording pretty much hinges on whether you buy into Bailey’s take on what constitutes performance and, in this case, a duet. Whereas on his recent Ballads or archival Pieces For Guitar, there were genuine moments of shimmering beauty, due fundamentally to the context into which the author places himself – jazz standards and written composition, respectively – Scale Points On The Fever Curve demonstrate Bailey’s playing at its most, dare I say, conservative. So, we get to hear (yet again) Bailey’s spidery guitar scrawl, punctuated by barely audible, yet sometimes sweet harmonics, alongside sudden squalls of skilfully controlled feedback, while Fine’s accompaniment on drums and clarinet fidget and splutter frenetically alongside. While this is all very nice and occasionally interesting, it is also quite predictable. One begins to wonder what exactly the point is of yet another release of this nature and what it is that Bailey is still trying so desperately hard to pursue or demonstrate. On Ballads he appeared to be boldly experimenting with melody and color. Here, he is guilty of repetition, albeit on his own terms.

By Spencer Grady

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