Fred Frith & John Butcher Team Up for “The Natural Order”


And no, before you ask – not THAT Butcher (which would be spelled “J-O-N”)…

It’s an improv/avant-garde summit par excellence that should have Prog-rock fans creaming their collective jeans: Guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist John Butcher, who over the last four decades have collaborated with AMM, Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton, Brian Eno, Bill Laswell, Mike Patton, the Residents, Marc Ribot, Sonny Sharrock, Matthew Shipp, Otomo Yoshihide, John Zorn, and many more, will be releasing their new album “The Natural Order” on November 18 via Northern Spy.

Each man has permanently altered the way in which his instrument is heard: Frith with his (at times literal) deconstruction of the electric guitar, and Butcher with his exploration of the physical properties of sound and extended playing techniques. Though they’ve played live together a few times, this album, recorded in 2009 and mixed in 2012, documents Frith and Butcher’s first head-to-head encounter in a recording studio. Their goals were somewhat different—Frith says he wanted “to see what would happen. To have fun. To deepen the conversation,” while Butcher had more specific results in mind: “A thing that’s characterised a fair bit of my duo encounters with Fred is working at (for me) high volume. And I really wanted to get into, to go with, the energy of that—but without travelling to some of the overdone places where power often pushes a saxophone.”

The backstory:

Fred Frith first emerged as a member of the 1970s British avant-rock group Henry Cow; he’s also led or co-led Art Bears, Massacre, Skeleton Crew and Keep the Dog, and performed in scores of other contexts. He was ¼ of the off-kilter rock ’n’ roll quartet French Frith Kaiser Thompson, the bassist for John Zorn’s group Naked City, and a member of Bladerunner, the saxophonist’s short-lived band with bassist Laswell and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. His 1974 album Guitar Solos represented a radical challenge to musical orthodoxy, anticipating much of the avant-garde playing to come. He teaches composition and improvisation at Mills College.

John Butcher began his musical career in the early 1980s, after abandoning a Ph.D. in physics. While his playing emerged from free jazz and European improvisation of the Evan Parker/Derek Bailey school, he gradually became more interested in overtones, harmonics and smaller sounds, exploring the innermost properties of the saxophone—and the room in which he was playing it. He’s recorded multiple solo discs, collaborated with major figures in improvised music and out jazz, and is renowned not only as a player, but as a listener—the kind of partner who values other musicians’ ideas as much as his own.

Track listing:

That Unforgettable Line

Delirium Perhaps

Dance First, Think Later

Faults of His Feet

Colour of an Eye Half Seen

Turning Away in Time

The Welts, the Squeaks, the Belts, the Shrieks

Butterflies of Vertigo

Be Again, Be Again

Accommodating the Mess


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