These two extended suites from 1986-87 – commissioned for dance – demonstrate again Frith's flawless ear for achieving balance and coherence through rapid fire changes, surprising divergences, humor, drama, pathos, contrast across an intensely musical tour de force. If nothing else, and unlike almost everything else, the broad range of instrumental voicings and treated sounds seem dense enough and diverse enough to fill a library of respectable size. Cataloging a wealth of techniques that embrace the composed to the improvised and remaining sharp-edged and mostly staccato in character, "Sadness" opens the work with a simple, quick and unsentimental pulse that shortly begins to flicker and fly off into thousands of directions. At times exhibiting the manic, driven and almost too-fast pace and clatter of some of Zappa's more circus-inspired and restless stretches, Technology of Tears, even after nearly 20 years, frames the universe of progressive and experimental preoccupations in an almost hurtfully precise clarity. As abrupt as most of the envelopes are, there is a fluid and natural presence to the music, held in careful orbits by a massive and dense center. And, as seems always true with the work of Frith and the Henry Cow alumni, the sound quality of this recording is hard to believe. Mastered and remastered to construct a soundstage of seemingly impossible specificity, the engineering is in perfect support of the work, revealing not only timbral nuance, but what must be every tiny splinter and shard of any audioform: beautiful as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.
The Technology of Tears
01) Sadness, its bones bleached behind us
02) You Are What You Eat
03) The Palace of Laughter, the Technology of Tears
05) Jigsaw Coda