Although they have already released two discs with the likes of Evan Parker and Maggie Nicols, “Falkirk” marks my first encounter with the GIO, a collective of clever musicians coming from the most disparate backgrounds (the press release defines them as “jazz, contemporary classical, experimental pop and sound art”). The CD, recorded live at Falkirk’s Callendar House in 2005, contains a graciously variegated 16-minute improvisation and a very long piece by double bassist and composer Barry Guy – a collaborator of the Orchestra since the beginning in 2002 – called “Witch Gong Game II/10”. In this track, which is obviously the album’s backbone, the score consists of a set of panels containing painter and percussionist Alan Davie’s graphic signs, which should indicate “different kinds of music floating over a black void”. This implies a symbolic message of unity and communion through the act of playing together, whatever the genre and the technical expertise involved, in “the darkness of an indifferent universe”. Besides Guy, violinist Maya Homburger is featured as a special guest. The aim is high given the artistic intent, yet the ensemble is tight enough to guarantee several moments of really interesting emotional outburst, swaying music that changes in speed and intensity at the flick of a switch but succeeds in making the listener “reflect about the difficulty” rather than “look for distractions”. In a few occasions, the mixture of articulation and freedom made me think of Keith Tippett’s Centipede; elsewhere, beautiful horn arrangements lead to territories associable to Frank Zappa’s work with the London Symphony Orchestra. This stuff blasts frequently and rubs rarely, all the while giving the idea of a serious commitment from the concerned parts.