Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina formed the Astreja ensemble in 1975, with fellow composer Victor Suslin; in an interview, Gubaidulina has noted the significance of free improvisation to Astreja, saying, “again and again I bless this sudden idea… we had of playing unwritten music. Now it is like air for me.” Exploring folk instruments from Central Asia at the beginning of their time together, Astreja would morph into one of the most curious free / collective improvisation outfits of their time. While their other two albums feature early nineties material, this 1994 release digs into the archives with recordings from 1977, 1980 and 1988. It’s a beautiful collection, rich with micro-incident, the music sensous and tactile; it rarely works up a sweat, and benefits from its restraint, though there’s an ever-present tension running throughout, the musicians attentive, ensuring these constructions never collapse.
– Jon Dale