Quintessential moments in the new music

Since the mid-1960s there has been determined and persistent presence in music making that owes nothing to establishment preferences, fashionable nuances or market forces. Experimentalism and improvisation speak of enquiry, curiousity and adventure in music. And, albeit that these practices have had to exist within the corrosive slipstream of the aforementioned tendencies, the search for meaningful and fulfilling musical expression can only become real through and towards self-empowerment.

Government grants, patronage and even market success (to some extent) speak of approval. But at what cost? Irrational whims or political preferences, when supported by power and/or wealth, usually find a way to reflect themselves or deflect unwanted tendencies. Hoping for help from such sources and expecting to maintain economic independence or cultural identity invariably leads to failure, hindrance or compromise and disillusionment. Much better to take and maintain as much control over the opportunities required to create a free cultural life as is possible without recourse to politically infected assistance.

Except for some unexpected (and minimal) Arts Council support in the early days of Matchless Recordings the label has survived and developed through unstinting labour of musicians and the continued support of listeners who perhaps recognised their own aspirations within the folds of the work of musicians and artists who are featured herein.

The guiding principle has been to release material that would add something to the sum of the parts that make up an alternative musical life. And early on, as if to test and confound the orthodox view, we released 'AMM - The Crypt 12th June 1968.' This double LP first released in 1981 (later to become a double CD) is perhaps the most uncompromisingly (and thence unpromising in a marketing sense?) music we could have chosen to release at such an early stage in the label's precarious existence. Some, questioned the wisdom of this choice, suggesting that it would have been better to have waited until tastes had caught up with this kind of musical expression. Those who advised caution were wrong. There was an audience already in existence for this music. And, the idea of nurturing taste and listening judgement is in some way an insult to the audience. A cultural community is a complex mix in which all the parts are both passive and active supporters at various times and places.

Since then the same philosophy has generally held. And, we suspect that some of our riskier ventures, mostly featuring younger and unknown musicians, may take a while to find a critical niche. But their time will come. Meanwhile, and satisfyingly contrary to expectations, the more informal and the least critically acclaimed musics herein go on developing. The AMM aesthetic which for many years existed as something close to a pariah, even within the improvising community, has found support and now nurtures other musicians who feel increasingly confident within this medium. And, the more formal experimentalism of early Cardew and the New York School (Cage, Feldman, Brown, Wolff) has found a continuing outlet within our catalogue. More music by Feldman and of the post-Cardew English piano tradition will appear in future releases. Adding to the all embracing catagory of experimentalism that pervades this music, the label includes ex-Scratch Orchestra allumni David Jackman's 'Organum' & there are examples of the newer improvising practitioners. And sitting alongside these, and adding an international flavour, are the stunning improvisations of the French ensemble 'Hubbub.'

Anyone new to our catalogue may find the mix somewhat difficult to negotiate. However, they are all part of the family of expression which informs a culture of empowerment for musicians and audiences alike. We have therefore decided to make simple catagories within our list to help newcomers (especially) to navigate around the parts. In doing this we found that there were indeed perplexing overlaps and some items which ultimately defied catagorisation. These we listed as 'uncatagorisable.' This is the section that I look eagerly towards developing. This observation perhaps brings us back to before Matchless Recordings existed and AMM itself was still at an embryonic stage in its development. I remember our first BBC recording. The producer was the late composer Tim Souster. I recall seeing the box that contained the tape for the programme. The label demanded that the producer write a report of the music therein. Tim wrote "defies description."

Eddie Prévost May 2006