Avant, Fred Grand
There is, I sense, a growing body of opinion that is beginning to question whether or not improvised music is now at risk from the same staleness which undoubtedly beset the jazz music that this largely European movement first reacted against over 30 years ago. The music has certainly developed its own language and structures (antithetical, but true) and I hear fewer and fewer surprises coming from within the movement. It does seem apparent however that a saviour, that of new blood and new technology, is rapidly advancing over the horizon. Not only do we get Derek Bailey's many genre-hopping situational challenges, Evan Parker's growing list of electro-acoustic collaborations, and Keith Rowe's work with the cream of Viennese and Japanese electronic music artists, we also get new post-AMM supergroup poire z (Günter Müller with turntablist Erik M and Voice Crack), Kaffe Matthews, and in the US the Sonic Youth axis (embracing the precocious talents of Jim O'Rourke and many key figures from New York's Downtown scene). This is a time of transition and mutation for the genre, and with recordings like the one below, I'm starting to think that things can rarely have been so exciting.
Stilluppsteypa have been active in experimental electronic music for almost ten years now, releasing a string of fine recordings on obscure labels in every corner of the globe. Their work on Ritornell and Meme is some of the finest music that the genre has to offer. This meeting with US laptop trio TV Pow culls material from a weeklong tour of the States, and is distinguished as the Icelandic trios first ever improv disc. If the CD's title is any guide, audiences can't have been large, though the best music often does go unheard. Sound (or noise) is the starting point, and with it are built long slowly developing and utterly beguiling soundscapes with a cool lustrous sheen. Stilluppsteypa's uncommonly beautiful signature sound (I refuse to use iceberg or glacier metaphors) is all over this fine disc, and in TV Pow they have found sympathetic allies. The Americans throw in some spiky and potentially disruptive moments, a kind of earthly interference which challenges but ultimately compliments Stilluppsteypa's exquisite cyber-sculpting. As with much of Erstwhile's commendable output, there is a tendency towards digital silence and microscopic sound, so fans of more demonstrative music may not be satisfied. To my ears though, this is an instant classic which charts some of the newest frontiers in improvised music.
All Music Guide, Brian Olewnick
Two improvising laptop trios, Stilluppsteypa hailing from Iceland and Chicago's TV Pow, met for the first time in the fall of 2000 and embarked on a week-long tour, captured in part on this recording. As in most successful examples of this genre, the musicians mesh into a whole wherein individual accomplishments are impossible to quantify. The range of sounds and depth of detail produced by this sextet are remarkable, from the quietest clicks and rattles to deeply sonorous hums and ratchetings, all serving to mold a palpable sound field ripe for contemplation. Certain tracks, like "International Starving Artists," have an almost soundtrack-like feel (one imagines it as accompaniment for a film by Tarkovsky), creating a striking sense of place and stasis as well as foreboding. Listeners wondering what can be achieved with "mere" laptop computers would be well advised to hear recordings like this one, where not only is the sonic landscape vast but the expressiveness and creativity dwarf that of many an avant-garde album on "traditional" instruments. Highly recommended.
The Wire, Jim Haynes
We Are Everyone In The Room is a collection of material recorded during the US tour in the fall of 2000 by the Powerbook trios Stilluppsteypa (Icelandic, but currently resident in The Netherlands and Germany) and TV Pow (of Chicago). Though they had never performed together before, the set surprises with the restrained panache, mutual respect and aesthetic splendour the two groups manged to pull off. As both ensembles specialise in the recombination of sonic minutiae, neither was terribly interested in upstaging the other with macho displays of ego inflation, although Stilluppsteypa’s subtle, absurdist humour makes itself known from time to time. This album contains a broad spectrum of manipulated glitches—from glacially distant drones and suraface noise static to eerie, digitally microscopic shimmers and terse, Morse code arpeggiations-but is focused within an intelligent blueprint of studied tonal fluctuations and spartan, post-Techno rhythms.