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Friday, August 3, 2012

Daniel Levin & Tim Daisy – The Flower & The Bear (Relay, 2011) ****

By Tom Burris

I have a friend who frequently instructs me to play drums like “a runaway wagon going downhill with a different sized wheel at each end of both axles.”  The wagon has to make it to the bottom of the hill in an upright position, of course, or the whole thing falls apart – meaning time has to be kept at bay while you remain keenly aware of its presence.  You converse with conventional time only when you feel like it is absolutely necessary.  This is how Tim Daisy plays drums all the time.  I saw him play at the Hungry Brain in Chicago a few years ago and think of him every time I need to “play like the wagon.”  He is the undisputed master of this technique, whether he knows it or not.

Levin and Daisy are actually masters of many techniques; and they never seem to run out of ideas on this very Chicagoan disc – by which I mean that their approach is Urban-but-also-Midwestern, a down-to-business attitude that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  For example, on “Paseo Bornicua” Levin produces balloon-squeaks with the bow on his cello while Daisy plays woodblocks and cookware, sounding like a free Moondog.  They’re deadly serious about the music, but the humorous elements downplay this fact.  About halfway through the track, the music gels into a carefully constructed mess that sounds like a drunken bicyclist with oval-shaped wheels pulling assorted tin cans, kitchen utensils and pie pans through a downhill obstacle course.  The wayward bicycle makes another appearance later on “Steel Flags,” only this time it’s struggling uphill until it hits level ground, hitting top speed around the 5:15 mark.

On the title track, Levin is all over his instrument with rapid finger-plucked bass lines, more balloon squeaks, and intense sawing.  Daisy sounds like he’s having the time of his life banging on every piece of cookery he could find with mom’s silver butter knives.  By the time he gets out the brushes, the two have built up a storm of such intensity that physical levitation seems like a very real possibility.

“Fairfield” opens with Daisy scratching and knocking on a variety of surfaces, sounding like a one-man workshop full of elves.  Drones and slides from Levin enter and build to an incredible intensity.  Daisy gets a solo spot, this time sounding like a runaway chuckwagon with one wrong-sized wheel.  Levin swoops in to try to stop the wagon, then suddenly decides to give it a shove instead.  The track ends when the wagon smashes into the rocks, stopping on its side with one wheel still spinning.

This CD-R is either limited to 200 or 300 copies, depending on the website you’re viewing.  Serious music should also be fun!


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