This record, serving as the soundtrack of the movie by Nicolas Humber and Werner Penzel, features Frith in different combinations with Iva Bittova, Hans Bruniusson, Tom Cora, Tina Curran, Jean Derome, Pavel Fajt, Eino Haapala, Haco, Eitetsu Hayashi, Tim Hodgkinson, Lasse Hollmer, Bill Laswell, Rene Lussier, Fred Maher, Kevin Norton, Bob Ostertag, Zeena Parkins, John Zorn.

  1/  Sparrow Song                               (Skeleton Crew)               1.28
  2/  Voice of America Part 3/Legs               (Frith,BO/Massacre)           4.24
  3/  Celluloid Restaurant/The Old               (Frith)                       3.09
          Man Puts Out the Fire
  4/  After Dinner                               (Haco)                        1.47
  5/  Houston St.                                (Frith,Zorn)                  2.54
  6/  Drum Factory                               (Frith)                       2.01
  7/  Regardless of Rain                         (Frith,Cora)                  3.05
  8/  Candy Machine                              (Frith)                       2.59
  9/  Romanisches Cafe                           (Frith)                       6.19
  10/ The Border                                 (Skeleton Crew)               3.29
  11/ Nirvana Again                              (FF,RL,KN,JD,BO)              1.53
  12/ Scottish Roppongi                          (Frith)                       1.46
  13/ Norrgarden Nyvla                           (Frith)                       2.58
  14/ Birds                                      (Frith,Hodgkinson)            2.18
  15/ The As Usual Dance Towards                 (Frith)                       1.47
      the Other Flight To What Is Not, Part 3
  16/ Williamsburg Bridge                        (Frith)                       1.53
  17/ Same Old Me/Williamsburg Bridge (reprise)  (Frith)                       4.10
  18/ The As Usual Dance...etc., Part 5          (Frith)                       2.24
  19/ Lost and Found                             (Frith)                       3.21
  20/ Nine By Nine                               (Frith,Haapala)               5.52
  21/ Evolution                                  (Frith)                       3.20
  22/ Union Square                               (Frith)                       1.41
  23/ Morning Song                               (Bittova,Fajt)                2.00
  24/ Voice of America, Part 4                   (Frith,Ostertag)              2.02
  25/ Too Much Too Little                        (Frith,Curran)                2.08
  26/ Too Late                                   (Frith)                       2.23

          Recorded in studios, streets, concerts, rehearsals, fields, hotel rooms and
            sundry other locations
          Compiled with additions and alterations at Sound Fabrik, Nunich, December 1989
          Engineer: Benedykt Grodon
          Field and live recordings: Jean Vapeur
          Produced by Fred Frith
(2) Second half - Fred Frith: guitar, 6-string bass, Casio-101, violin, xylophone, voice; Bill Laswell: bass; (17) First half - Fred Frith: Casio, vocals; Bill Laswell: bass; Fred Maher: drums.

          1990 - RecRec Music (Switzerland), RecRec 30 (2x12")
          1990 - RecRec Music (Switzerland), reCDec 30 (CD)
          1990 - East Side Digital (USA), ESD 80462 (CD)
          2002 - ReR Megacorp/Fred Records (UK), ReR/FRO 03 (CD)


I've heard nothing but praise for the film to which this is the soundtrack. I have yet to see the film, but now that I've heard this album I really want to see it! This is 74 minutes of prime Frith, in various contexts and with various groups of musicians. As such, it's a great overview for the unfamiliar. It's not a comprehensive anthology, by any means; just for starters, neither his work with Henry Kaiser nor the French,Frith,Kaiser,Thompson material is represented. However, it does have material from Skeleton Crew (which really makes me want to hear more!), Massacre, and from his solo albums "Gravity" and "Cheap at Half the Price". Other collaborators include a surprisingly mellow John Zorn, Iva Bittova and Pavel Fajt, Tim Hodgkinson and many others less notorious.

The material ranges from quite structured songs to what seem to be free improvisations. I'm pretty picky about my free improv -- I like a certain amount of structure, whether intended or apparent -- and I enjoy virtually everything on this album. "Lost and Found" (with Bittova and Fajt) is a gentle tune reminiscent of Eastern European folk music; "Norrgarden Nyvla" sounds remarkably like old King Crimson; "Birds" starts off sounding like Appalachian fiddling before turning into something stranger. While a few tracks don't really go anywhere, they're short enough (there are 26 tracks on this 74 minute CD) that they work as interludes.

Copyright 1992 by Stewart Evans (courtesy of the Doodah website)


Although this is technically the soundtrack to a film of the same name by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel, Step Across the Border actually serves as an excellent overview of Fred Frith's groundbreaking work as a soloist, bandleader, and collaborator. There's an example of his "guitars on the table" approach ("Romanisches Cafe"), and a couple of excellent duos with tape manipulation whiz Bob Ostertag ("Voice of America Part 3," from the lost and lamented Voice of America album they made for the defunct Metalanguage label). There are also scraps of material from his work with Skeleton Crew as well as numerous other well-chosen miniatures that vary from tuneful and charming to stark and forbidding. Perhaps the best thing this album accomplishes is that it puts some of the material from the astounding (but, sadly, long out-of-print) album of avant-garde power trio compositions and improvisations Frith recorded with Bill Laswell and Fred Maher under the name Massacre back into circulation: the very fine "Legs" is included here, as is a previously unreleased live track from 1983. Very highly recommended.

4 stars out of 5

Rick Anderson (courtesy of the All Music Guide website)