The Remote Viewers

Stranded Depots
Leo Lab / CD076

David Petts / tenor sax, keyboards, Louise Petts / voice, alto sax, theremi/ , Adrian Northover / saxophones

This is a trio which just gets better with every release. David and Louise Petts are composer/saxophonists who work virtually exclusively together, on their own compositions, releasing material on Leo Records. This apparent lack of interest in doing the rounds of the avant garde “scene” trying to scrape together gigs and play with anyone who’s around is refreshing and pleasing; the results are extremely distinctive.

Regular readers will know what they do; music which is simultaneously austere and melodramatic, something like Nosferatu; the kind of music Adorno might of liked, if he hadn’t been so hung up on orchestras and the whole tuxedo’d world of Western “culture”. Louise Petts’s voice is cool and clearly enunciated, as if she were singing Brecht, and the words are obscure socio-political allegories, deliberately cryptic and full of figures in vast wildernesses and meditations on abstract patterns of light in monochrome rooms.

This said, it might sound incongruous that they usually choose to do a couple of unexpected cover versions. Not always successfully, but always with utter avoidance of kitsch. Here it’s “Goodbye” by Gordon Jenkins and a tiny sketch by Satie, so less controversial than some of their previous choices. Otherwise, their work falls into two camps: instrumentals, which are generally sax trio-driven but these days often underpinned with electronics, and songs, which are generally the reverse.

As a saxophone trio the Viewers are really something else. The music they play is unique, often dense and rhythmic with the same perversity of logic one finds in some of the great jazz composers, performed impeccably by the three. As a composer and arranger, David Petts creates songs which are radically different in texture — far more open, with thin, high notes and dislocated drum machine sequences which make references these days to the most undanceable forms of ambient drum ‘n’ bass.

The Remote Viewers — along with their larger version, B Shops for the Poor, and the Petts’ duo The Poison Cabinet — are a fascinating musical entity which simply refuses to be anything but itself. Too uncompromising to fit neatly into categories, they continue doing what they like, in the hope that people will get it. The getting thereof is well worth the effort. Richard Cochrane