If we’ve missed the exhibition in Munich, the next best thing is this lovely white box of six discs [...] which contains the music the visitors could listen to on headphones. So what do we get on these six discs. Well, a shrewdly compiled trip through ECM’s back catalogue, moving seamlessly from classical to jazz to world and folk, and providing not just individual delights but also the joys of juxtaposition. So some Steve Reich moves to Arvo Pärt and so on to György Kurtág and then to J.S. Bach and then to Tigran Mansurian. And that’s just a part of disc II. [...] Even if you have shelf loads of ECM discs there is still a good reason to own this extraordinary box set and that is to have your very own ECM-determined DJ to put it all together in new and beguiling ways.
Peter Bacon, The Jazz Breakfast
For those wondering what the point of record labels might be in the age of the download, ECM, with its pared-down, north European aesthetic is surely answer enough. Since 1969, it has championed the cool and contemplative over the shallow and shrill. This six-CD sampler set ranges from Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt via Norma Winstone to Nils Petter Molvaer. It’s an ideal soundtrack for summer – though probably better if you’re spending it by a Norwegian fjord rather than the fleshpots of Ibiza.
John Bungey, The Times
The music on these six CDs is austere even by the label’s own standards, but no less beautiful. There’s as much classical and new music as there is jazz, with the first two disc’s collage of excerpts from Arvo Part, Steve Reich, Shostakovich and others particularly effective, while the relationship of music and film forms another recurring theme. Use it to soundtrack your own life.
Phil Johnson, The Independent On Sunday
No prizes for guessing that a six-disc box-set in which Steve Reich, Jan Garbarek, CPE Bach, Norma Winstone, Arvo Pärt and dozens of others rub shoulders is an ECM production. This seven-hour compilation was made for a major Munich exhibition entitled ECM - A Cultural Archaeology, emphasising ECM music's links with other arts. So there are big roles for Georgian film-composer Andrey Dergachev's fusions of electronics, speech and whirring machinery, Greek theatre and film scorer Eleni Karaindrou's romantic orchestral pieces (with Garbarek's sax and Kim Kashkashian's viola among the solo instruments), and many other absorbing crossovers. But at least 30% of the set has clear jazz roots - from clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre's cool-bop ‘Jesus Maria’ from 1961 with Paul Bley on piano, to John Surman and Barre Phillips' ferocious, synth-thundering ‘Mountainscapes V’ from 1976, or the Old and New Dreams band's blues-steeped rendition of ‘Lonely Woman’. Five stars for mostly reissued music might seem generous, but the way this set has been assembled creates transporting new narratives - or meditations - from sequences that were never meant to coexist.
John Fordham, The Guardian
Along with a new book, with the same title as the exhibition—published by Prestel Verlag in 2012 in both English and German—Selected Signs III-VIII continues a series of ECM samplers that began in 1997 with its first volume, but in this case ties directly into the exhibition, allowing those who were unable to attend to at least experience one aspect of it. These six CDs—housed in a suitably austere white box and containing nearly seven hours and twenty minutes of music that spans much of the label's history—are playlists that Eicher himself programmed for the exhibition's numerous listening stations and small alcoves, where it was possible to sit on a bench at the end of a small, dark room and become immersed in some of the ECM's finer recordings, delivered through superb, high-end sound systems.Ask any musician what one of the hardest parts of making an album is, and they'll tell you: choosing and properly sequencing the tracks. Eicher, who sequences almost all of the label's releases, has become known for his keen ear and acute observational skills, which result in albums that are not just collections of discrete compositions and/or improvisations, but are, instead, complete entities unto themselves, where the experience of listening to a recording in its entirety, start to finish, reveals far more than any individual piece could. [...] What makes these sets so essential is how Eicher clearly sees intimate connecting threads throughall the music he's produced over the past forty years. [...] Looking at Eicher's sequencing, there are sometimes obvious threads; still, most of the time the only real connection is the music itself, and how and why these compositions work in this specific sequence is something only Eicher could truly explain, but for which only a good set of ears is required to listen and, more importantly, to hear.
John Kelman, All About Jazz
Was ist das, was hier in siebenstündiger Opulenz und schlicht-schöner Verpackung die Labelaktivitäten doch immer nur andeuten kann? Ein Sammelsurium? Ein simpler Sampler mit der Tendenz zum Größenwahn? Mitnichten! Eher eine vorsichtige, klug durchdachte Bilanz und ein Hörparcours in der Schatzkiste. […] Dieser Anthologie darf man sich nicht geschmäcklerisch nähern. Sie ist kein ‚Best-Of’, sondern eine Einladung, durch musikalische Räume zu wandeln, hier zu verharren, dort verwundert zu sein und intuitiv zu spüren, wie in diesem Kosmos eins mit dem andern zu tun hat.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Jazzthing
Et tant pis si je vous fais (sou)rire: le carton fin et doux de ce coffret sent bon. Son odeur a la même noblesse capiteuse que celle de certains livres. On devrait envoyer chaque jour un courriel de remerciement à Manfred Eicher, l’homme et l’ âme d’ECM, qui n’connaît pas le crise et continue comme si de rien n’était de faire (sur)vivre l’objet-disque.
Frédéric Goaty, Jazz Magazine
The sheer range of musical styles present is quite breathtaking and should appeal to most people. You will hear plenty of jazz mixed with ambient minimalism combined with improv of varying types and soundtrack projects. [...] There’s also a host of intriguing cross-over pieces that spark interest and tickle the imagination. And this is the point of the box set. Combining musical styles and artists in such a way that you can never really relax into a comfortable rut. There is always something happening. New challenges to the ear make listening to this musical sequence anticipatory.
Paul Rigby, Hi-Fi World