Entropy Stereo

The new improvised music scene is stronger than ever in Michigan; new venues and concert series abound and graduates from local ensembles have been invigorating the musical environments of places such as San Francisco and Chicago. There has also been a flurry of recording activity; most young artists have preferred to issue their own CDs but small new record labels have also taken advantage of new technology to establish their presence. Most of these are run by musicians and among these one should mention violin and electric bass player Mike Khoury. Khoury has been active in many different contexts in recent years, including the Archipenko Duo, specializing in Eastern European folk music, and The Little Siege Ensemble which is a larger improvisational group working with alternative notations and scores. His most recent project is a free improvisation trio with Jason Shearer on reeds and Ben Hall on percussion. They have been performing together quite often, most recently at the Illuminations New Art and Music Festival. In addition, in 1998 Khoury started an excellent small recording label that is probably better known abroad than it is locally.Entropy Stereo has an Ann Arbor mailing address, although its headquarters change as Khoury moves around. This is definitely a labor of love. Khoury runs the label, but stresses that the artists have control over the music and the artwork. He also notes that Mike Johnston from the Northwoods Improvisers, and Ben Bracken of the Remote Viewing Ensemble have contributed much to getting the work done.

Of the six currently available CDs, two are by local groups and the rest are by well-known improvisers from this country and from Europe and even from Australia (violinist Jon Rose). The Michigan artists on releases 3 and 5 are by the venerable Northwoods Improvisers and friends (these are reviewed elsewhere in this issue). The names speak for themselves; I am particularly impressed by number 4 (Dynamics of the Impromptu), the first ever US release by saxophonist Trevor Watts, one of the pioneers the British improvised music movement. In 1973 and 1974, when these recordings were made, he and percussionist John Stevens made up the Spontaneous Music Ensemble; they were united with guitarist Derek Bailey for three concerts at the legendary Little Theatre Club, a Soho venue which played a crucial role in the development of the independent British improvisational movement. The most recent Entropy release is by Dutch saxophonist Luc Houtcamp, a master of extended techniques. This is his first recording in a trio format with members of the Chicago improvising community and will undoubtedly be very different from all his other CDs. Even a quick listen has convinced me that this is going to be one of my favorites of the year.

The current catalog is as follows:

  • ESR002 Eugene Chadbourne: Country Music of Southeast Australia
  • ESR003 Remote Viewing Ensemble
  • ESR004 Derek Bailey/John Stevens/TrevorWatts: Dynamics of the Impromptu
  • ESR005 Northwoods Improvisers: Lightning Darkness 
  • ESR006 Jon Rose: Fringe Benefits (double CD)
  • ESR007 Luc Houtkamp: Luc Houtkamp in Chicago
These recordings are available for $13 (post paid, $20 for the double volume 6) from Entropy Stereo, PO BOX 4412, Ann Arbor, MI 48106 USA.