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Friday, January 29, 2010

Percussion only ....

One could wonder whether the cultural capitals of the world have been moved to Cracow (Poland), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Lisbon (Portugal). Or let's say that at least of some of the best and daring music nowadays is performed and released out of those cities. Again, the small labels surprise with the least likely of commercial successes: solo percussion albums.Well, not quite solo. The first is accompanied by text, the second is a percussion duet, but the lack of melodic instruments does not mean lack of musicality, as is demonstrated here.

Vladimir Tarasov - Thinking Of Khlebnikov (No Business, 2009) ****

Russian master drummer Vladimir Tarasov is possibly best known to jazz audiences from the Ganelin Trio, but he already has eleven solo percussion records in his name, and many compositions for larger orchestra too. In all, more than a hundred albums.

This album is a reflection on a text on the Russion futurist Velimir Khlebnikov, which is joined on the CD as a pdf file. The text is in Russian.

Tarasov's playing is sparse, open, subtle, sometimes adding drama, but more often precise, cautious, gentle, barely disturbing silence, creating an organic harmony with a silent environment. No patterns, no repetition, just the infinite possibilities of sound, brought to such a level of abstraction that any sense of melodic evolution would be a vulgar disturbance of the purity he creates.

Lucas Niggli & Peter Conradin Zumthor - Profos (Not Two, 2010) ***½

The approach by Swiss drummers Lucas Niggli and Peter Conradin Zumthor is quite different. It is rhythmic, repetitive, with lots of bells and cymbal work, a feast of small percussion, yet there is a likeness with Tarasov in their willingness to work with open space rather than to fill it with empty sound. The second piece, "Where I End", for instance, is just the high-pitched tones resulting from the scraping of a stick on a cymbal. Most of the pieces are relatively short, with clear rhythmic compositions and structures. The last track is the opposite of percussion actually, but a half hour drone with shifting shades of color and intensity. Not what you would expect from a drums duet. 

Watch a clip from December 2009.

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© stef