Ana Balka : violin, guitar

Jeff Bradley : double bass

Scott Burland : guitars, keyboard, electronics

Robert Cheatham : reeds, keyboard

Robert J. Hulihan, Jr. : electronics, guitar

Milton Jones : percussion



"They sound like an orchestra tuning up."

Martha McCall


"Here comes a charging, wild rhino.
If you want to listen, fine. Either way. This rhino stops for no one."

R. Walter Riley


Last Friday night, I tore myself away from A&E's two-hour biography of the Bee Gees long enough to visit Eyedrum's Improv Festival, a gathering of improvisational musicians and their music. Recommended by a friend, the group I came to see is a local ensemble called GFE. GFE stands for Gruppe Freie Elektronische.
Incidentally (or perhaps intentionally), GFE also is a term used by the escort industry that means "Girlfriend Experience." Needless to say, Googling the phrase "GFE Atlanta" to try to gather info about the band was an interesting way to kill 20 minutes.
GFE plays anti-melodic, anti-rhythmic, highly abrasive music using traditional instruments (bass, drums, sax, keys) augmented by electronics (sampled dialogue, a theremin). Eyedrum's website quotes one person describing the band's music as the sound of an "orchestra tuning up."
That's a funny description, but not quite right because it implies formlessness and aimlessness. GFE's piece, titled "The Black Abyss Around Your Heart, I Hate You" was free-form, but it wasn't formless. It wasn't pretty, but it was pure sound that, like meditation, is supposed to erase all thoughts and worries from my mind - resulting in a blissful state that I quickly ruined by rushing home to watch more A&E.
- Andisheh Nouraee, Creative Loafing

Practice makes perfect, or so the adage says. For local electro-acoustic improvisational act Gruppe Freie Elektronisch, perfection is a matter of silent communication. "We never practice," laughs percussionist Milton Jones, and upon witnessing the group's stirring live performances, it becomes obvious that practice is beside the point.
Jones -- along with Jeff Bradley (double bass), Scott Burland (pedal steel, keyboards, electronics, guitar), Robert Cheatham (saxophones, keyboards) and Bob Hulihan (electronics, guitar) -- has only played three shows since forming the group in 2003. A mutual appreciation for experimental music and long-standing friendships -- some lasting more than 15 years -- give GFE an insight not achieved by many acts. Recent inductee Ana Balka (violin) brings an outsider edge, adding dexterity to the sonic deluge. The slow and surging sound is a slanted journey into intangible tones. "The group is less about rhythms and jamming as it is about creating textures, colors and shapes," adds Jones. "I'd like to see it move toward more structure, but that would require some practicing."
Over the course of the group's tenure, GFE has stood for everything from Girlfriend Experience to Granola Free Explosion, but Gruppe Freie Elektronisch is the tag that sticks. An appropriate title considering the group's surroundings: Jones and Bradley double as the core of local avant-garde jazz and experimental music promoters Euphonic Productions. As a result, GFE has become Euphonic's de facto house band. But that hasn't added any undue pressure. "We're like old friends communicating when we play," adds Jones. "It's not practiced. It's not rehearsed. It just has a life of its own." Chad Radford, Creative Loafing


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