001 - "Atavistic Electronics"

& Other "Official" Tour/Ture(s) - $6.00 - (90 minutes)


From: "Sonic Striations" #2 - December '93 - us@

"The "Official" Project":

"Atavistic Electronics" & Other "Official" Tour/Ture(s)

(Widemouth) (cs) More "aleatoric etc...[I scratched out something here & don't have the original handy to see what was originally written]" from the "Official" Project, an collective with a penchant for a different long and involved name for each performance. These live recordings are from shows played between August 4 and September 5, 1992. Of the 31 players that have been involved since the group began in 1990 five are represented here including group founders tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE and instrument inventor Neil Feather. Three more players sit in on Montreal dates. The group's "organized" improvs are regulated by CAMU's (Cue Activated Modular Units). These are exhaustively described in the booklet that accompanies "The Official Wafer Face Record." Side one contains a melange of short voice and music pieces while side two contains two longer workouts of ten and twenty minutes and a number of short pieces. The former, "Atavistic Electronics," I found especially interesting. It's a moodier piece with a steady midrange pitch underlying a sparse improv. Humor is in great abundance throughout this whole release as well as the Wafer Face work. The group shows little regard for musical convention (whatever that is). But what might at first sound like random honking, squealing and clattering seems to take on more significance if you can follow along, matching CAMU's to each segment of music. Though it stands on it's own I think this kind of thing would be enhanced by being able to see the group in action.


From: "Experimental Musical Instruments"

- Volume XI #3 - March '96 - us@


[..]Less organized socially, but equally active, is the group of musicians, artists, performers, etc. grouped around Baltimore-based multidisciplinary artists tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE* and Neil Feather. Two cassettes, both having moments of high hilarity, document their activities from around 1992. "Atavistic Electronics" is a tape of excerpts from a tour that took Feather, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, Peter Williams, John Eaton, and Rebecca Barten to Portland, Maine; Montreal; Toronto; Dreamtime Village, Wisconsin; Denver; Kansas City, Missouri; and Athens, Ohio. Short excerpts of improvisations & more structured compositions are intercut with gloriously anarchic radio appearances, verbal performances, etc. The result is a lot of fun, especially if you follow the meticulously detailed liner notes. In addition to the comedy value of this album, though, is some very interesting and disciplined playing. tENT frequently provides quite detailed sets of rules for interaction to the players, who responded to them with gusto. I was happily surprised, knowing of this group's anarchist and individualist bent, to hear these sections of unison playing, interaction and group sensitivity.

Their instrumental collection will also warm the hearts of many an EMI reader. I quote from the liner notes, which don't explain what any of these instruments may or may not be: "Demi-Nondo, Bendy Guitar, SK1 Sampler, Siren, Trombone, Recombinant Electronics SK1, Portable Vibulum, Voice, "Erector Set" Percussion, Lap Guitar, "Terrence Dougherty" Electronics, Trumpet, Audobon Bird Call, Bass Guitar, I.V. Stand Percussion, Alto Sax, Stephanie Palmer Apologetica, Chair, etc." The sound that results from all this is colorful and full of unexpected surprises.[..]

*[Since this recording was made, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE has left the city that for years had appeared on his return address as Bal Tim Ore.]


From: "Vital Weekly"

- week 50, number 61 - December '96 - Netherlands


The Official Project started in 1990 and exists out of 31 participants, some just for one session, some for all of them with as many as 17 collaborating at the same time. This tape is the quasi-document from their live touring in 1992. The tape starts out with something that sounds like a sort of close-harmony singing, followed by a radio commercial for their live tour, which mainly exist out of old-fashioned jazz-like improvisations in a style which reminds me a bit of the album "Another Band From L.A." by the Mothers, mainly because of the Flo and Eddie vocals. But not as good and less specific. I can hear that their main problem is how to get all participants instructed and organized, since they work with so many different people. So they just decide to be not too specific about it all; "you repeat a word, say: "horseass", then he blows his horn and I hit my drumkit and you scream something whatever comes too your mind" and so on and so on. Some of the tape cuts are really bad and there is lots of tape-hiss everywhere. No; this tape is not for me, I don't like it because it's too much improvisation in a too traditional way with too many traditional instruments. (RM)


tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE responds (unpublished)


Once again, I feel that I must defend my audio work from drastic misunderstandings! - In this case as response to Radboud Mens' review of ""Atavistic Electronics" & Other "Official" Tour/Ture(s)" in "Vital Weekly #61".

Given that his 1st 2 sentences are basically just paraphrases from the liner notes, I don't object to them. He then goes on to write "The tape starts out with something that sounds like a sort of close-harmony singing, followed directly by a radio commercial for their live tour, which mainly exist out of old-fashioned jazz-like improvisations in a style which reminds me a bit of the album "Another Band From L.A." by the Mothers, mainly because of the Flo and Eddie vocals, But not as good and less specific."

For the sake of accuracy, the tape begins with "Barbershop-Quartet/MelOperatic Intro" for 38 seconds & then goes into a "Free Form" improvisation for 5:46 - then it goes into the radio bit: "D.J.'s Intro -> Neuro-Linguistic Programming Intro" for 1:37 - then into a club performance of the "Drelso" for 1:48 - then into another radio bit: "Describing (w/ an excerpt from "K7Z: the Official, August 23rd, 1991E.V. Bughouse Apex Roto-Zither Auxillary" in the background)" for 1:06. This is the section referred to by RM's description. All of the above info is available on the notes,

The "close-harmony singing" referred to was simply one of our many ways of introducing ourselves. We changed our name for every time we played (including all of our practices) so that we would have a name specific for each occasion - following a formula to create an overall pattern. The majority of the names used on this tour are listed on the notes. Any observant reader would note the pattern. The style of introduction is meant to be an unreasonable facsimile of Barbershop Quartet + Melodrama + Opera - since none of these forms appeals to us, we're deliberately sloppy in our references to them in order to create a "wrong note" take-off.

This is not "followed directly by a radio commercial" as the above list shows. The 2 pieces performed on the radio show are the "Neuro-Linguistic Programming Intro" & "Describing". Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a way of supposedly introducing quasi-subliminal ideas to the listener by emphasizing certain words in a spoken text that form a sub-text that's more important than the main text but which is supposed to go un-noticed by the listener. For example: "What the FUCK is going on here? I mean, what's happening to ME & what will I do WHEN I leave here? What are YOU going to do when you LEAVE here?" Since we question the control-freak motivations of this technique & the efficacy of it, our use of it is more of a formal take-off than an attempt to actually subliminally control anyone.

Typically, in performance, the piece proceeds as follows. The main performer, usually me, starts a mostly nonsensical narrative that has the superficial appearance of being a lecture or a story. At certain hand-signals, the other performers simultaneously say the previously agreed words of the "sub-text" (which always follows our intro pattern) - interspersed throughout the main monologue one word at a time. Attentive listeners will realize that this subtext has its own continuity. In this case, the subtext was "We're the "Official", August 7th, 1992E.V., CKUT, Late Night Atrocity Exhibition Barkers". The date is the date of the radio show, the call letters are those of the station, "Late Night Atrocity Exhibition" was the name of the show we were on, & we were thinking of ourselves as being "Barkers" - that is: people who "clamor or cry out" - as one of my dictionaries defines it.

"Describing" is simple: we just described the environment we were in. The purpose of this was to make the performance "site specific". Many of our vocal pieces function in this way - the intention being to draw the audience & environment into the mythology that we create. Any connection to "old-fashioned jazz-like improvisations" is tenuous. Obviously, older jazz vocal improvisations were mainly scat singing - in which the singer substitutes non-word sounds for lyrics & sings variations on the pre-written melody. Both of these pieces use words & mainly speaking - with no pre-written melody.

As for "Flo and Eddie": they were both conventional pop singers staying within a deliberately conventional pop harmonic framework. Usually (in the Mothers) they sang melodies written by Frank Zappa. Since we made no attempt to "harmonize" or perform "melodies" in these vocal pieces it's no wonder that we were "not as good" as them at that - after all, when someone's playing tennis, if you think they're trying to cook Thai food you'll probably think they're really bad at it. We're trying to find people who can tell that we're playing tennis. As for "less specific": yes, in some sense we're less specific than Zappa - insofar as much of their material was pre-written & performed over & over. How many times did they perform "Billy the Mountain"? We didn't want to perform fixed routines. As such, the structures used were broad enough to include more variety than those Mothers' routines did. By the way, the name of the record is "Just Another Band From L.A.".

As for "their main problem is how to get all participants instructed and organized": Whew! In order to illustrate how off-the-mark I think this comment is, I looked through my voluminous notes from the "Official" Project to get the following info. There were 4 members of the band who played at all the gigs on this tour. Including all of the tour gigs + all of the rehersals & gigs prior to the tour, Neil Feather had played the material in over 143 sessions, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) had played the material in over 147 sessions, John Eaton had played it in over 54, & Peter Williams in over 41. Of the auxillary members who played in Montréal, John Berndt had played it 38 times, Scott Larson: 35 times, & Eric Myers: 12. With the exception of Eric, I'd hardly call that inadequate rehearsal time. Each rehearsal consisted of at least a half hour of learning new material followed by at least 45 minutes of playing an entire set incorporating the new material. Usually these practices went on for over 2 hours. Neil & I practiced as much as 2 or 3 times a week. Believe me, we were very organized & "instructed"!

I've included the booklet, entitled "More Information Than Most People Are Likely To Want To Read", that accompanies our "Official" record because it includes a section on most of the pieces that were performed on the tour (there were about 7 new ones that aren't included) - complete with descriptions of their structures. We definitely did not "just decide to be not too specific about it all; "you repeat a word, say: "horseass", then he blows his horn and I hit my drumkit and you scream something whatever comes to[o] your mind"" because of a lack of organization & instruction - as RM expresses it. Our structures simply specified different parameters at different times - deliberately leaving other aspects open so that we would always be trying something NEW. Sometimes the instructions specified certain pitch sets, sometimes very specific & difficult to play rhythms that very few people would be likely to be able to play without practice. The title of the booklet alludes to just how little patience most people would have with studying the intricasies of our playing method.

As for the tape cuts being "really bad" & the "tape-hiss everywhere": excuse us for being poor, eh? Maybe you can afford the 24 track (or 8 track or 4 track) with all the mikes & the professional studio, etc.. - but for me, the high-end was usually a Sony Walkman to record with & a not very good duping deck to edit with. I'll continue to crank out recordings 'til I die regardless of how much rich people diss the "quality". The content of my material more than makes up for any so-called negative aspects of the "tape-hiss" (which I sometimes use as a content element anyway) - or, at least, so I think in my not-so-humble way. I prefer to think of it as "Sci-Fi" rather than "Lo-Fi".

Finally, RM doesn't like it "because it's too much improvisation in a too traditional way with too many traditional instruments." If after reading "More Information" anyone thinks our "improvisation" (I think of it as "modular d comprovisation") is "too traditional" I'll certainly still disagree. As for the instruments? Peruse the following list (taken again, from the liner notes):

Demi-Nondo (invented by Neil Feather)

Bendy Guitar (invented by NF)

Bell Tree (NF)

SK1 Sampler



Recombinant Electronics SK1 (mutated by John Berndt)

Portable Vibulum (NF)


"Erector Set" Percussion (built by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE)

Lap Guitar

"Terrence Dougherty" Electronics (built by t, a c)


Audobon Bird Call

Electric Bass Guitar

I.V. Stand Percussion (built by Peter Williams)

Alto Sax

Stephanie Palmer Apologetica (made by John Berndt)


Venetian Glass (made by JB)

Soprano Sax

Apologene (JB)



This list doesn't mention the 16 second digital delay, the effects units, & various other electronics. It also doesn't go into the details about the smaller instruments like crow, deer, & turkey calls; motorcycle horn, etc.. It does, however, list 11 instruments made by members of the band - out of a total of 24! Of the 13 listed that we didn't make, I'd hardly call "Siren", "Audobon Bird Call", & "Chair" that traditional - except in Musique Concrete - which we certainly like (& a genre in which I've worked since at least the mid '70s) & which RM also seems to like (judging by the "Testament" review).

Oh well..


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The reviews are not necessarily copied verbatim from the original. Usually, small apparent typos are corrected & obsolete addresses are removed. In some cases, I may choose to leave misspellings, misinformation, etc intact to demonstrate how sloppy the reviewer is. Of course, there may be times when the original packaging was confusing (deliberately or otherwise) which may effect the reviewer's comprehension. The more recent the tapes are, the less likely this is to be the case. Most of the recent tapes provide fairly extensive liner notes. In some cases, reviewers whose native language isn't English may be writing in English anyway for the sake of 'internationalizing' their reviews. Obviously, this may lead to what strikes native English speakers as 'bad' English. Hopefully, equally obviously, this should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence in the writing. Editorial notes may be inserted into the reviews in [brackets]. In many instances, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) replied to reviews that I disagreed with strongly. These replies are included here. In some cases, I may add additional retrospective comments.