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Farmer's Manual are one of the key bands when I think of the Austrian label Mego. But for all that they haven't exactly released a lot of albums. Even so they have been playing extensively live, which seems to be more of what they are about. Many of the events of the last several years have been recorded, and have been available on a website. At the time of this release they had almost 4 days worth of live material, which using new DVD technology they have managed to get on to one disc.

On hearing about this DVD with so much material on it I was unsure as to what to expect. How on earth do you deal with 3 days and 21 hours and so many minutes worth of live material? Being a DVD the DVD software kicks in as soon as I put this disc in my computer. A little music plays and I expect a menu to come up. Strangely it doesn't, instead we have some footage, where the members of Farmer's Manual are sitting around a studio and then find a dividing wall which they decide to break through. Okay, I watch this and do other stuff, waiting for the menu, waiting for live stuff to come on. It doesn't. The film finishes and that's that. Odd. Of course my next thought is to look into the directory, which is where I find the meat of this release. In basic terms the website that the material has been downloadable from has been put into these folders. With which there are many external links for you to explore further. But folder after folder of mp3s of live material, photos, interviews, web pages. A fairly serious documentation of who Farmer's Manual are and what they have been doing over the years.

Straight off there are downsides to this release. MP3 is a restrictive format, limiting the listener to computer use - while some people have MP3 players they aren't that common, besides which the last time I was experimenting with moving MP3s around on a Mego disc they were locked to prevent that. Another thing is that, as with that previous Mego disc, the web pages don't always load properly, I don't know if they have been programmed for a different platform or not, but there are certainly issues.

However these are not necessarily a big deal. All of the material can be accessed by just going into the folders as you would any other computer file. With which there is a hell of a lot of material, and it will certainly take me some time till I have worked through all of it - if I ever quite do manage.

Working through the material it appears that some of the mp3s are either very minimal, take a long while to build or complete silence. For now we don't have the patience for those pieces - too much other material here to worry about that. The material covers a range of electronic manipulations - like when I saw Farmer's Manual perform, some of the material is willfully difficult, other pieces are easier to appreciate. Reading the interviews while listening helps, giving impressions of the way in which the trio collect sounds and manipulate them ruthlessly to provide the end result. A result which tends to be improvised, at least enough that each performance is different. As they would need to be to make this release worth while in the slightest. Many of the pieces are quite long, being live recordings as they are, ranging from 30 minutes to considerably longer. I tend to find that this means that I will listen to one piece in a session, in much the same way as you would witness only one performance at a time. Though there are some folders which feature several tracks, which allow for more lee way if you are only looking to listen to a little bit at any one point.

Overall this release is pretty impressive. A real chance to explore the music of this influential groups. Brought together in a strong package, one disc with so much on it, in a DVD case that has all the dates detailed on it, in a card slip sleeve which is covered with concert tickets, passes, airplane slips and the like. A unique release.

RVWR: PTR June 2003

More Information

1: Mego

label site. 2: RLA

release site, filled with all the material from the DVD and material recorded since.

-- HiazHhzz - 31 Jul 2003


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