January 3, 2011
Still You. You Still Here
Fonorum NO #
PNL Records PNL007
Sur quelques surfaces vacant
Réf point 01
Skin, wood and metal are the essential materials which make up a drum set, extended with bits of wire and plastic. Yet in the right hands – and using the right implements – expressive, imaginative and in many cases unimaginable – sounds can be created from these primeval objects. This becomes more apparent – and often significantly more spectacular – when a percussionist plays solo. These CDs from two Norwegian drummers and one French one confirm this state of affairs.
A sound designer as well as a drummer, Norwegian Terje Evensen complicates this situation a bit on Still You. You Still Here by adding electronics to his percussion discussion. Yet Evensen, whose playing partners encompass trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer and saxophonist Julian Argüelles among others, has enough acoustic music bone fides to not let electronic pulses overcome his drum work. In contrast, Oslo’s Paal Nilssen-Love – sideman of choice for saxophonists as different as Peter Brötzmann and Joe McPhee – is showcased in a hard-hitting, six-part all acoustic set; while Bordeaux’s Didier Lasserre, who often gigs with bassist Benjamin Duboc, concentrates on textures that can be displayed using only a snare and a cymbal. Interestingly enough, no matter their orientation, all of the skin beaters here have evolved a percussion strategy that capture the reverberations that are added to the performance after parts of the instrument has been struck, as well as the initial percussive attack.
Nilssen-Love’s Barcelona-recorded solo set for instance could be a graduate seminar in drum manipulation. Constantly on the go, with split-second callisthenics on different parts of his kit, Nilssen-Love is apt to concentrate on a single beat or rhythm from a snare or cymbal for a protracted period; or, as frequently, turn to split-second and rubato exploration of other percussion timbres. The result can be stentorian and his pace frenetic, or alternately the outcome relaxes into barely there pulses or rebounds, which at the same time, never let go of the beat,
Probably the most spectacular instance of this appears on “Part IV”, when balanced riveted cymbal strokes are annexed to swishing, minimalist ruffs that sound as if they’re constructed out of plastic toppings. Shifting his attack so that he’s merely scuffling the drum tops and barely tapping the cymbals, Nilssen-Love institutes a protracted abrasive surface buzz that is transformed into taut clinking and clattering polyrhythms. Expanding his moderato backbeat with bass drum thumps he doubles then triples the tempo.
By this time the percussionist is already dazzlingly exposed other strategies, beginning with doubled paradiddles and the concussion of stick against drum tops, dividing the beat among stop-time rhythms and subtle friction on the cymbals; then bluntly reversing himself with tom-tom-like resonations, abrasive tempo cuts and crashes. By the conclusion of the first track for instance, nerve beats push rim shots into something resembling tap dance clinks. Later on, he shakes a thunder sheet for additional onomatopoeia, and reveals distinct intonation by rattling a drum stick in the centre of a snare; by tightening and loosing drum heads; by scratching sticks along cymbal tops; and by hammering novel rhythms with widely spaced pings on bells and mini cymbals.
Bell ringing figures into Evensen’s solo set as well, but at first you can’t be sure whether the distinguishing textures are produced in real time or, due to the shrill of electronic pulses, are the result of sampling. Luckily those suggestions of Nordic mood music are banished by the final three tracks which more appropriately showcase the percussionist’s skills. “Maintain/You’re the New Museum” is a miasma of cross-tone buzzes and cymbal-shaking that leads to climax-blocked reverberating pitch changes. But “Wreck/Lights On-Off” mixes blunt ruffs and protracted pauses until a burst of percussive violence builds whooshing wave forms and strumming reverb into a sprightly melody. Despite being played on percussion instruments, it suggests the texture of string twangs as much as drum top ruffs and drags. The concluding “Before Leaving” seems to wrap up the entire production with ring-modulator-like peals and rebounds.
Electronics eschewed, Lasserre’s four-part suite for cymbal and tambour reaches the same sort of scraping, buzzing and percolating textures using only a stripped down kit. Gradually diminishing and swelling cymbal sounds his magisterial invention chromatically moves forward, and then retreats, so that what remains are the sonic after-images of cymbal overtones. Evidently bouncing small objects on his drum tops for variety, Lasserre creates highly rhythmic martial-style press rolls. Conversely by varying pressure, he manages to produce sound undulations that hover as well as thud. Finally his scraping of cymbal sides on top of drum tops replicates hums, blurry clacks and flanges as if the sequenced sound is being electronically processed.
These naturally oscillated sound currents not only demonstrate the malleability of Lasserre’s minimalist and completely acoustic drum kit, but also display a solo playing strategy that is as unique and notable as Evensen’s or Nilssen-Love’s.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Still: 1, Unclaimed Consciousness 2. Beside Space/Next To 3. Proletarian/In Memory of Persistence 4. 1978 5. Maintain/You’re the New Museum 6. Wreck/Lights On-Off 7. Before Leaving
Personnel: Still: Terje Evensen (percussion and electronics)
Track Listing: Miro: 1. Miro Part I 2. Miro Part II 3. Miro Part III 4. Miro Part IV 5. Miro Part V 6. Miro Part VI
Personnel: Miro: Paal Nilssen-Love (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Sur: 1. Surface I 2. Surface II 3. Surface III 4. Surface IV
Personnel: Sur: Didier Lasserre (cymbal and snare drum)