"Quantum is, apparently, a work that uses some of the earlier WWW sound sources, including natural field recordings, primitive electronics, the voices of Swiss autistic children, and the cream of the crop of late 1960s British-based free improvisers: Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Daryl Runswick, Kenny Wheeler and Graham Lyons (and others, not explicitly credited, it seems).
Basil Kirchin's professional career as a musician started way back in 1941, playing drums in his father Ivor's dance band. He eventually took over its musical direction and transformed it into one of the most popular and sought-after outfits in England, accompanying the likes of Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan and picking up a recording contract with George Martin's Parlophone. At the height of his fame, Kirchin mysteriously abandoned the band and headed off to India for a five-month stay at the Ramakrishna Temple at Dakshineswa, taking with him a handpicked selection of the band's more audacious recordings, which he'd personally supervised with manic perfectionism. These were all lost when a net containing Kirchin's luggage fell into the sea in Sydney harbour - a shattering blow for the composer, who returned to England in 1961 and busied himself writing film soundtracks. By the mid 1960s the Worlds Within Worlds concept, an audacious mixture of natural and man-made sounds, had taken shape in his mind, and armed with a Nagra tape recorder supplied by the Arts Council of Great Britain, he set about recording the vast library of source sounds he would eventually use in his extended compositions. He continued to support himself and his Swiss wife Esther by accepting film and TV work (notably the soundtrack to the cheapo horror film The Abominable Dr Phibes), moving to Hornsea on the deserted east coast of Yorkshire. Almost nothing has been heard of him since the mid 1970s, though one suspects someone will soon be tracking him down for an extended interview.
Even by today's eclectic standards, Quantum is an extraordinary work. The juxtaposition of transformed birdsong, fuzzed-out electric guitar and the intense vocalisations of the autistic children of Schurmatt, growling tigers and chattering xylophones, cheap fairground synthesizers and wild snaking soprano sax lines from Parker (on outstanding form throughout) is unlike anything you're ever likely to have heard before. Like Eliane Radigue's music, it's as if Kirchin's soundworld just appeared on the scene thirty years ahead of his time: the multistylistic montages of Zorn and O'Rourke are in there, as are the field recordings (treated or not) of Matmos and Chris Watson, but Kirchin's extraordinary orchestration, combining the screams of a young girl with a lugubrious band chart worthy of Gil Evans and some awesome bassoon work from Lyons and bowed bass from Runswick, outdoes them all, creating a feeling of terrifying power. When Esther's child-like voice returns at the end to intone "something special will come from me", you damn well believe it. It's not without humour though - just seconds into the piece Kirchin plays around with the pitches of his recordings of geese and gets them to honk "God Save The Queen", surely a deliberate and tongue-in-cheek reference to Stockhausen's Hymnen (where ducks honk the Marseillaise). Was Kirchin familiar with Stockhausen's piece at the time, or has he incorporated the reference since? Until someone goes to interview this elusive figure, we won't know for sure - his liner notes don't give us many clues - but there are enough levels of mystery on this extraordinary disc to move and disturb us for years to come. You have been warned. "