Posts Tagged ‘percussion’

Love Love Records – 26th April 2019 – LOVLP03

Christopher Nsnibor

However you remember Sly and the Family Drone, whatever your past experience, and whatever you may expect, the reality of each new entry in their catalogue brings something slightly different.

My first encounter with them was in a live setting, and I was left reeling with images of a bloke in boxer shorts pummelling drums and getting half the audience to join in. I remember noise, rhythms and chaos. Various YouTube footage confirms this is pretty much representative.

All of those elements are present on their studio recordings, but in different measures. It works: it’s a different medium. And moreover, each release reflects an evolution, usually a subtle but nevertheless key shift. And so it is on Gentle Persuaders, the collective who describe themselves as a ‘neo-noise-jazz outfit’ (one suspects that as apt as the description is, there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek here, just as their absurdist track titles aren’t entirely straight-faced) ‘vomit forth a smooth serving of curious and clattering noise not devoid of fun’.

Smooth is perhaps one thing it isn’t, and for that we should all try and be grateful. Challenging, angular, tonally and structurally abrasive, Gentle Persuaders finds Matt Cargill and co. playing to their ever-growing strengths.

The album opens in suitably uncompromising style, with the longest of the four compositions, the fourteen-minute ‘Heaven’s Gate Dog Agility’. It takes its time to get going, and with minimal instrumentation save for elongated sax drones, it has something of a sparse, free jazz feel. The percussion is restrained, distant, muted, and the emphasis seems to be on atmosphere, and – so it would seem at this stage – musicianship. But by the mid-point the drums are full-blooded, and the sax is battling amidst a barrelling wall of extraneous noise. The closing minutes find the rare emergence of an overt structure, a form, with repetition and a coalescence of sound that could almost be mistaken for a tune.

Crashing, head-blasting industrial beats worthy of Test Dept or perhaps reminiscent of Revolting Cocks’ ‘Beers, Steers & Queers’ shatter the air on ‘New Free Spirits Falconry & Horsemanship’. And they continue to pound away for the duration, while the sax screeching becomes ever more strangled and frenzied.

‘Votive Offerings’ ventures into murky, dark ambient territory, and reveals glimmering flickers of light shifting amidst the shadows of sombre drones and unsettling incidentals. It’s a mosaic of fragments: forms start to emerge, solid rhythms kick in, only to halt after a few bars, and if it’s jazz with noise, it’s jazz with noise penned as a soundtrack to the fragmented hallucinatory anti-narrative of Naked Lunch.

It’s this change of mood that renders the finale all the more impactful: beginning stark, sparse, eerie, with single notes ringing out into a sea of black echo and swampy low undercurrents, the spectacularly punny (and so very typical) ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’, a low-end bass grind begins to build the foundations of a swirling sludge-trudge climax. It’s not gentle, but it’s extremely persuasive.

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Gentle Persuaders

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Gizeh Records – 26th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker has done it again: pulling together a brace of collaborators to form a perfect triangle, See Through is a magnificent sum that’s greater than the parts, showcasing the way relinquishing individuality in favour of collectivism can yield something… other. And See Through is decidedly other. The press release describes the process, an evolution and layering: ‘The project was brought to life through Baker exploring textural rhythms created by sampling small, sharp and abrupt sounds on the electric guitar and then sequencing them in a drum machine to form the bedrock of the tracks. Mueller then added his particular, signature brand of intricate, hypnotic percussion to the mix and the compositions began to grow and take shape. The pair agreed that the pieces needed a more human touch and Coloccia was invited onboard, contributing processed vocals via looping, tape manipulation and microphone feedback.

To describe it as ‘ambient with beats’ – a phrase I’ve used to describe worriedbaoutsatan, who sound nothing like this – may be vague, but it’s accurate. It’s all about the slow build… and the percussion. Starting with higher-pitched finger drums, it evolves to a polyrhythmic experience. Insistent tribal drumming hammers a martial beat that underscores wraith-like vocal echoes and soft, supple surges of abstract ambience… the effect is mesmerising, hypnotic. Snaking hints of the exotic twist through the hazy infusions of the sprawling eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Repeat’, which finds the percussion dampened, dulled, yet no less insistent as it clumps and clatters along in the swirling sonic mists.

See Through is an album of evolution, and the tracks seep into one another to form a cohesive but ever-shifting sequence. As is the case in respect the album as a whole, the percussion is key, and changes between each piece, backing off and rising to the fore once more.

‘Summer’ takes a more ambient direction, the beats subdued and submerged, muffled and distant and pulsing through a viscous, subaquatic density, before the title track ventures deeper into darker territory, an unsettling, shifting rumble that shudders and shuffles, suffused with incidental scrapes and vaporous drones which creep in and out of the frame like ghosts, like drifting mists, like so many intangibles. It’s dark, uncomfortable, disorientating, and extremely difficult to pin down -which is precisely its indefinable source of both its appeal and its artistic success. It builds to a scraping crescendo around the 8-9minute mark.

The final track, ‘Harmony in Distance’ wafts drifting ambience over a soft rhythm that builds in intensity, until the soft sonic washes and drifting vocals give way to a rising thunder of drums that drive the album to a tidal climax.

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Baker et al

Aagoo Records / REV. Lab Records

21 September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

French experimental drum outfit PILES are pitched as being for fans of Neu!, Can, Trans Am, Hanged Up, Beak>, Captain Beefheart, Edgar Varese, This Heat. Yes, a drum trio. Which means dominant percussion, and then some. But hen, anyone who’s heard Japanese drum combo Voordoms will appreciate the power of percussion as a dominant aspect.

And so we have eight tracks, all as drummy as it gets. Often, drums with little more than drones and hums or hovering feedback or sustain. But all the rhythmic complexity under the sun, with two or even three kits battering away.

‘Decay’ comes in hard and heavy, the opening bars reminiscent of The Fall’s ‘Muzoweri’s Daughter’ before dispersing in myriad directions as it spills directly into ‘Ulrick’. And just as things threaten to get tedious, ‘Mort aux cons’ brings new dimensions of noise, with sludgy bass and cacophonous guitar accentuating a different range of racket. And yes, it is a racket, albeit a good one.

‘Kraut and Piles’, the first of three nine-minuters eschews accessibility in favour of relentless pudding beats and extraneous noise. In venturing into industrial territory amidst shards of feedback, PILES reach a point at which the overall weight of the album tips into that of the heavy: there’s not much let-up here as the beats pound away at the cranium and the raring noise buidls to the sound of a jet engine preparing for take-off. The sonic barrage of ‘Kraut and ‘Piles’ is immediately followed by nine minutes of cut-up sound arrangements and drone with ‘Material in US’, which creates a very different atmosphere and casts the band in a very different light, even when things burst into an explosion of drums neat the end – because this about so much more than drumming. Then again, ‘Chambre d’echo;’ suddenly erupts from brooding atmospherics into a barrage of beats before shifting into a tinkling lullaby, which is pleasant if incongruous.

The final composition, ‘Marie’ is another nine-minute-plus beast that begins with ominous drones and conjures an unsettling darkness for its duration and culminates in a weird sort of semi-climax on a cymbal that rings out to eternity.

Una Volta confounds expectations and forges a strange mix of percussive assault and ambience, and does so through unexpected forms. It makes for an album that isn’t remotely what you might expect, but is all the better for it.

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PILES – Una Volta

Christopher Nosnibor

The missive which contains a link to the album lays out the facts. ‘August 2015: On a sweltering summer evening, Sly & the Family Drone brought their sweat-soaked carnival of chaos to east London. This is a recording of that night.’

Café Oto seems to be the venue of choice for weirdy, avant-garde experimental acts to capture their live sound – or perhaps it’s one of the few venues that truly embraces all that it weirdy, avant-garde and experimental in the first place. This, of course, is one of the benefits of operating on a not-for-profit basis. Art takes precedence over capital. It’s also an intimate space, where even a small crowd will make the place feel like it’s heaving, and it’s possible to really feel that connection between performer and audience in an up-close setting. Truly, here’s no substitute for being able to smell the sweat and see the whites of a perfomer’s eyes

Sly and the Family Drone have been pushing the parameters of messy noise for about eight years now, and while their recoded output explores all areas of murkiness and abrasion, their live shows are something else. Chaotic and cathartic, the only predictable part is percussion – that is to say, a lot of percussion.

This particular outing is heavy, and percussion-heavy from the outset. Thick, low-end blasts thunder through pounding drums. The percussion intensifies in both power and pace, while the droning bass frequencies bottom out to a place below the pelvic region while explosions of top-end squeal painfully. Less than ten minutes in, and they’ve hit total overload. Over the course of the album’s hour-long duration, they maintain it, and if anything, continue to push further, harder, louder, harsher. Crescendo hits after crescendo, and cumulatively, it’s punishing – in the best possible way.

It’s not just a hell of a noise: it’s all the noise. Even when the noise abates and the relentless battery of snare halts temporarily, eardrum-perforating feedback and whirring, hissing shards of treble fill the space. Through speakers, it hurts. Once can only imagine the impact and potential damage inflicted on those actually present. This is less a case of ‘you probably had to be there’ and more about ‘damn, I wish I’d been there’.

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cover

Spezialmaterial / Staubgold – SM052 – 6th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

You’d expect an act as boldly named as The Immersive Project to make music which is nothing short of completely immersive and engaging from the outset. Even if you wouldn’t, I certainly would, and did, and so was a shade perplexed when my initial reaction wasn’t ‘wow’, but ‘what?’ Snaking bossa nova beats and strutting strings conjure an exotic vibe on the album’s first track, ‘Middle Class Massage’. Is the medium the massage? Am I missing something?

The Immersive Project is a collaborative work, the product of the shared endeavours of musical percussionist Holger Mertin based in Cologne, and electro musician Michael ‘Koko’ Eberli from Zurich. As such, it’s one of those works which could only exist in the modern age, in which distance is no object and geography is a state of mind. The pieces contained herein are what can emerge when collaborators bounce ideas off one another’s ideas, rather than one another, with producer Marco Riedener’s contribution being such that he is named on the cover as the Project’s third member.

‘Pizzifikato’ begins with soft, finger percussion and trilling strings before a trudging march and swampy bassline stroll in to create a dense atmosphere oozing with a sense of esoteric mysticism. Elsewhere, ‘Hilo’ (which features Eberhardt Kraneman of Kraftwerk / Neu renown) hurls a whole heap of stuff together, with bits and pieces of post-punk disco, wibbly synthtronica, bulbous bass and jittery grooves criss-crossing one another all over the shop. What indeed?

It’s certainly varied in its scope, with ambient and semi-ambient explorations interspersing the various forays into experimental dance. At times eerie, often playful, this is a work that defies ready categorisation. It’s not mood music, it’s not dance music: as on ‘Zwerchfell Schwingt’, the clattering, booming thuds are distant and contribute more to the creation of atmosphere than groove. And while the majority of the compositions are strongly orientated toward the rhythmic aspect, it’s by no means a beat-driven album.

‘Regenmann’ brings some chilled, swampy, vibes, and the attention to detail, both within each piece and the overall flow of the album becomes increasingly apparent with each listen. Textures and tones compliment and juxtapose alternately, often confounding expectations from one moment to the next. Such focus on variance and nuance requires a huge create commitment: an immersion on behalf of the creators. It does take a little bit more effort on the listener’s part to fully engage and to appreciate this, but ultimately, the rewards are there for the taking.

 

SM_TheImmersiveProject_Vinyl.indd

Gagarin Records – GR2037 – 1st March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Werke für Schlagzeug und elektroakustische Geräte (that’s Works for Percussion and Electro-Acoustic Devices) is the second album by Polish duo Miłosz Pękala and Magda Kordylasińskam, and it’s a covers album. But as you might expect from an act which started out under the moniker Hob-beats Percussion Duo, this isn’t anything like a regular mainstream covers album. The selection of ‘original’ compositions more than amply evidences this, with the album starting with a brace of Felix Cubin compositions – ‘Renaissance Gameboy’ # 1 and #2.

Miłosz is a vibraphonist and percussionist, while Madga’s instrument is marimba: they use these to recontextualise and realign the explorations of Kubin’s works (while usually found working with synths and Gameboys, these pieces were originally written for violin, saxophone, cello, drums, and tape), and the results are nothing if not fascinating. It’s a slow drip, clatter, rattle and scrape with the occasional swelling rumble. It’s percussive, but not overtly so, and the unorthodox approach to generating – and recording – sound using their instruments of choice means identifying the origin of each individual sound is almost impossible.

Frank Zappa is by far the best-known artist covered on here. Famed for being difficult to play and originally written for drum kit and electronic percussion, but later emerging in various revised forms, it does seemingly lend itself to Pękala and Kordylasińska’s set-up. But of course, they’re not content to simply ‘play’ it, and instead incorporate dripping water, temple blocks, cups and use lose-mic recordings of all of these and more to forge an altogether different kind of clicky, flicky clattery racket.

Pieces by Thymme Jones and Steve Reich receive similar treatment, with the latter’s ‘Vermont Counterpoint’ performed with the flute motif and, indeed the rest of the orchestral parts, performed on vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba and dulcimer. Building layers of rippling melody, it’s remarkably faithful to the original.

An original Pękala composition, ‘Modular #1’ closes the album. Based on a rhythmic pattern generated by a modular synthesiser, it further demonstrates the versatility of percussive instruments, as delicate waves of sound drift and flow in supple glissandos.

And yet, as beguiling as the music is – and it really is extremely pleasant, and relaxing without being too much ‘background’ – the thing I found to be most charming is the sticker on the cover of the CD, which lists the running time of 36:52 as the ‘Total Playtime’. It may not feature on the commercial release, but it does serve as a reminder that music, however serious or experimental, invariably involves an element of play, and this is nowhere more apparent in Pękala and Kordylasińska’s approach to music-making.

 

Pękala – Kordylasińska

SOFA – SOFA552 – 7th October 2016

James Wells

Le Stanze is Ingar Zach’s fifth solo album. His previous works have explored the potentials of percussion and electronic sources for the basis of his compositions, and Le Stanze sees him continue to expand in this field. ‘Groundbreaking’ is a word which is used in reference to many artists, often somewhat spuriously: in Zach’s case, it’s entirely apposite. While many of the sounds are overtly percussive in origin, it’s where Zach takes the sounds which renders Le Stanze such a fascinating album.

A flurry of sticks against skin is followed by silence. The silence is as important as the sound: Zach understands contrast and dynamics. He also understands range: single thuds at an infinite range of timbres contrast with chimes and jangles, scrapes and long-decaying echoes. A mesmeric heartbeat-paced thud underpins a sustained clamour of tinkling chimes like an alarm bell. Long, low notes loom beneath, almost subsonic, almost subliminal.

On ‘Il Battito Del Vichingo’, a battery of tribal percussion builds to a polyrhythmic frenzy. It contrasts with the drifting ambience of ‘L’inno Dell’ Oscurita’ and again with the shifting, sharp-edged metallic ibrationss of ‘E Soplitudine’, which slowly builds a long, sonorous drilling hum. In places, it’s almost unbearable in its tonal intensity, frequencies which assault the aural receptors and scrape at the soft matter within the cranial cavity.

Not only is it an intriguing listen, but on Le Stanze, Zach brings a magic, a mystery, to the act of making music, the process.

 

Ingar Zach