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Originally released in 1973 as a private press LP, 'One' is the first document of GAEB, a mysterious sextet of Californian improvisors. Formed in the late 60's by artist Richard Waters and jazz drummer Lee Charlton, the group made music using Waters's kinetic sculptures. His most important creation was the waterphone, a sort of acoustic synthesizer which used water in its resonators to produce warbling, tone bending vibrations similar to th edeep sea harmonies of humpback whales. Together with this extraordinary instrument, the group assembled a complex line-up which included musical saws, log drums, assorted gourds, bird calls and an Aeolian space horn, incorporating them all into elaborate, jazz-inflected space jams.
Their music was completely improvised, with sounds randomly thrown into the mix with the aim of creating a "free music atmosphere". As worthy as these intensions may have been, however, the music soon becomes a tangle of half-realised ideas centred more on the ingenuity of Waters's handmade instruments than the sounds they actually generated.
The extended version of the title track is the most convincing thing here, a bubbling jazz ramble firmly anchored by sturdy bass violin playing and kaleidoscopic drum patterns. As the track develops, however, the solid instrumental framework that holds the piece together slowly dismantles, as waves of ambient abstraction aimlessly crash into the composition and gradually pull it down.
While trace elements of the music of instrument builder Harry Bertoia, percussionist Christopher Tree's 'Spontaneous Sound' and Sun Ra's 'Strange Strings' occasionally flash to the surface on 'One' and the remaining tracks, the majority of the record is too loosely strung and ill-conceived to deliver the head charge that the cover's psychedelic drawing suggest is waiting inside.