There are four earlier recordings of this piece: the first from 1975 (to fit on one side on vinyl), the second from 1990. The 1990 version was an hour long track, and sonically 'challenging' - it was partially recorded in a huge water tank and the music evolves/degenerates into an atonal rumble that requires a good sound system. But it's a fascinating, raw, experience, if hard to find now. The 1994 Point Music version took elements of that recording and was a smoother experience, with lots of fascinating sound effects. It was handily divided into sections - my favourite being the one including bass clarinet, as it resembles Bryars's less experimental works, and is haunting all on its own. The Smith Quartet's 'Ghost Stories' album of 2007 included a fifteen-minute reworking. All of these versions are different, all valid, and can be bought safely without fear of duplication. The spoken samples on each, for instance, are obscured to different degrees, and the opening and closing sections each offer an alternative conceptual reading of the piece.
This new version is the most radical. The piece as already recorded does not even register as the same until over ten minutes in. Preceding it is a strange radio-static crackle not unlike that which opens Pink Floyd's 'Division Bell' - the idea of 'communication' being behind both. My copy does not have points, as Amazon indicates, but is one long seventy-two minute track. Sound effects and individual instruments are well defined, with some fascinating new additions and expansions.
What the piece has in common with the others is the enfolding string quartet wash. I am lucky never to have found it repetitive, but always curiously comforting. Long may this piece have even more interpreters!
This disc is packaged in a greetings card-sized folder, with the disc itself in a paper sleeve. Full notes are printed, to help newcomers understand the brilliant idea behind this ongoing aural artwork.