The madly in love combination of Paul Bley and Annette Peacock, toting all kinds of unstable synthesizer equipment around Europe, and backed by the madcap Han Bennink on drums, adds up to the stuff of musical legend. Sadly enough, this is one of the better musical documents from these encounters, ungenerous as it is in its playing time. Several of the tracks feature a different group, without Bennink. The side-long "M.J." is vaguely ludicrous, although certainly listenable. The amazingly dated nature of electronic sound may turn out to be the overall theme, since sounds that made artists of the early '70s feel practically like they were sitting in the cockpit of a rocket to Mars come across as more than just tame a few decades later. The melody and harmonic structure of this tune, occurring and occurring and occurring as it does, begins to sound like the pop group the Classics IV. Meanwhile, Bennink carries on like he is playing with John Coltrane; good thing, that. Peacock's electric bass is a very nice touch throughout a track that can't be said to sound like that much else on record, by Bley or anyone else.
Of course, subsequent generations of listeners returned to electronic antiques such as this, savoring the tones of the instruments as if chewing on nectar-laden cherries. "Gargantuan Encounter" lacks the longer track's melodic sentimentality, beginning somewhere mid-performance and going straight for the jugular vein with a series of wacky electronic sounds from both Peacock and Bley, all of which the wonderful Bennink tramples as if flattening a small ant hill with an oil drum. With Bennink exiting stage left, the supposition might be a return to a more normal musical environment, but the tracks with bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Laurence Cook are even more chaotic. This rhythm section and the music in general goes wild in a Cecil Taylor manner, Peacock energetically attacking an acoustic piano as part of a mix that is continually saturated by synthesizer sounds. These electronic comments seem more and more like radio frequency jamming as things proceed. Details like a frantic arco bass solo are undermiked, adding to the overall insanity. "Richter Scale" contrasted with one of Bley's piano ballad performances -- on other records, to be sure, as there is nothing remotely lke that here -- show the wondrous contrast certain artists achieve in their careers. The final track is a short showcase for Peacock's vocals. AMG.