Out of the Blue
Nexus #10814

Performance: ****

Sound: ***

More than 35 years along in a career that ping-pongs between the improvised and notated musical world on their own or in collaboration with ensembles as varied as the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the Canadian Brass, the five-piece NEXUS is still discovered new sounds and rhythms.

Out of the Blue extends the list of the Toronto-based quintet’s playing partners by adding Swiss drummer Fritz Hauser to the group. A virtuoso performer who similarly takes in both sides of the legit/improv divide, he has composed theatre pieces and regularly improvises with saxophonist Urs Leimgruber and bassist Joëlle Léandre. The result, on the title and final track, is the full integration of 24 limbs to produce an essay in variegated percussion timbres. With the guest playing regular drum kit and the NEXUSians sounding a warehouse full of percussion, the interchange ebbs and flows, with layered cadences ranging from unison harmonics to individual beats.

Shaped through variations, the six percussionists vibrate and rattle textures that appear to be produced from the resonation of steel drums, the ringing of tubular bells and chimes, rattling and shaken maracas and wooden claves, piano-wire-like plucks, quivering ride cymbal patterns plus prolonged snare press rolls. As the agitato piece surges from false crescendos down to barely-there drum pop diminuendo, full advantage is taken not only of the tones themselves but their correlated droning overtones.

Sutured onto the final track’s introduction, Hauser’s preceding “Time Flies” defines his talent. With watchmaker’s precision, the Swiss percussionist constructs his solo from silences plus extended rim shots and cymbal shading as well as flattened, echoing speed ruffs. As memorable in execution as the display is phlegmatic, at mid-point he unhurriedly brings each drum part into play one-at-a-time, while augmenting the volume and power, until presto, the whole kit is in use.


— OPUS Volume 30 No. 3