The Remote Viewers
Obliques before Pale Skin
Leo Lab ( )

cd cover David Petts (saxophones, synth, theremin) and Louise Petts (saxophones, voice, synth, theremin) among London's best-kept secrets. They gig rarely, as their music crosses categories of new composition, rock, jazz and free improv, although it isn't really any of those things, and the electronics they use can make playing tiny club nights a headache. Yet what they do is perfectly unique, and they continue to stubbornly plough their furrow despite the obvious difficulties it presents.

With fellow saxophonist Adrian Northover, they form The Remote Viewers, for whom this is the second release on Leo. A very assured piece of work it is too, with covers of songs by Van Heusen, Tiomkin and Madonna sitting alongside David Petts's trademark compositions. These latter are hard to get at first; they seem deliberately ugly, atavistically complicated and lumpy at the same time. But that, in a way, is what he's after, a music which is built on a severe and distinctly un-cuddly framework.

"Isolation In Compartment C"
You only have to see a photograph of them, really; they're one of the few British avant garde bands who have a "look". For them it's a sort of thirties style, all dark suits and drapery, as if T S Eliot's bank clerks worked on high modernist sculpture and read Wittgenstein at the weekend. The music has a strong modernist feel, but that's just a part of what they do. They also cover songs by Madonna, for example, not in an ironic, po-mo sort of way but just because they like the chord changes. There's a real sense of enjoyment in this sometimes austere, sometimes noisy but always very disciplined music.

There are moments of sheer beauty as well as the angular compositions for which David Petts is known (and ought to be better-known; this writer likes to think of someone doing a jazz album of Petts tunes, but they're tricky, for sure). "Creatures of Distance" is a lovely piece composed of dissonant, drifting synth chords with saxophones thickening the texture, moving gradually into simultaneous soloing of the sort that this trio do extremely well. Although hard to describe, the music these people make is easy to recommend. - Richard Cochrane

Available at

Audio: "Isolation in Compartment C"
Music by David Petts; lyrics Louise Petts
Published and © 1999 Alissa Music; used by permission

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