For some time now it’s been possible to labor under the impression that electroacoustic improvisation (or EAI) is exclusively available on import, primarily the domain of Japanese, German and English performers. Actually, that’s never been the case; Americans have contributed to this outlier scene and its constantly morphing aesthetic from the start. But the arrival of ErstAEU—a new imprint of genre-defining mainstay label Erstwhile Records, operated by Jersey City tastemaker Jon Abbey—brings a fresh focus on a groundbreaking wave of homegrown talent.
Like AMM, the intentionally vague name used by a seminal British forebear to the current scene, AEU is meant to be amorphous. A clearly stands for American, Abbey readily admits. But E could be Electroacoustic or Erstwhile, and U might represent Union, Underground, Umbrella, Unlimited…U name it. Conjoined under the mysterious moniker is a growing band of outward-bound composers, improvisers and collaborators—“who may or may not yet know of their involvement,” according to the shadowy collective’s sole public statement.
Performing in this inaugural splash at Issue are the three duos who recorded ErstAEU’s initial trio of releases. Joe Panzer and Greg Stuart connect Gerhard Richter’s slathered, scraped canvases to Merzbow’s assaultive sonic discharge on Dystonia Duos. Anne Guthrie and Richard Kamerman palpably convey sensations of space, dimension and unrest on their rich, enveloping Sinter. Graham Stephenson and Aaron Zarzutzki hew closest to recognizable shades of EAI interplay on Touching, while neatly avoiding predictability. Don’t expect anyone to “play a song from our latest album” here.—Steve Smith
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