Control Room is a five CD set by London based avant garde jazz group The Remote Viewers. In this collection of unique and intriguing music, The Remote Viewers take the listener through a variety of soundscapes that typically emphasize a variety of musical textures employing a number of acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic resources. The 1st CD of the set comprises a single 38:16 composition entitled "October Rush."
The work is a thought provoking patchwork of sounds derived from a number of musical sources. The piece opens with a series of arpeggiated sound masses played on piano, flute and electronic instruments leading to a solo on acoustic bass. This is followed by what might be construed as a series of "nature sounds" as a background to chord structures played on piano. This leads to a more active electronically generated bass line that serves as foundation to panoply of sounds generated by electronic, acoustic and electronically enhanced acoustic instruments. The composition achieves contrast of interest by juxtaposing more active mechanical type sounds with those one may perceive as more placid and akin to nature-like. The creators of the music also seem to employ pre-recorded segments played on acoustic and electro-acoustic or electronically modified acoustic instruments further modified in the manner of the early electronic musique concrete.
Not to be overlooked is an extended solo by the group's saxophonist Adrian Northover that seems to serve as the centerpiece of the music that seamlessly morphs to sounds that range from those resembling sonar pings to acoustic bass to muffled jet engines. An interesting patchwork indeed! The second and third CDs of the set respectively titled The Art of Empire and An Affair of Cyphers in addition to other material each contain different versions of the same compositions. In some cases the pieces are for predominantly saxophone ensemble and in other cases saxophone ensemble with electronically generated music. The pieces "Hollow Stems," "Distant Intruder," and "Silent Weapons for a Quiet War" on The Art of the Empire are for an ensemble of saxophones, while the versions of these pieces on An Affair of Cyphers are for saxophones juxtaposed against a backdrop of electronically generated sounds. "Perspective Weaved Into the Night" and Priere (based on the composition by Erik Satie) from The Art of the Empire and "Glamour Cast by Idleness," from An Affair of Cyphers are for saxophone ensemble and electronics. The fourth CD Fiction Department is predominantly electronically generated sounds and the vocals of Louise Petts with sounds that resemble those one might find in a Science Fiction film. The combination of Petts' haunting vocals combined with the variety of acoustic, electro-acoustic and electronic sounds woven around her voice creates a soundscape that is delightfully eerie bringing to this listener's mind Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire.
The fifth CD of the set entitled Situations features the compositions and solo saxophone work of Adrian Northover. A highlight for this listener was Northover’s version of the Cole Porter standard "What Is This Thing Called Love?" His use of echo and looping devices aided in creating a swirling soundscape based on the basic melodic lines of Porter’s tune that presented an inventive approach to re-creating a standard. The music of The Remote Viewers will certainly appeal to the listener seeking uniquely different sounds. While the music on this 5 CD set will be challenging to many listeners, for those who delight in avant garde approaches to music making and seek music that is provocative and thoughtful, this set will delight.