Peter Orins

October 2, 2021

Vrtn & Vbrtn

Helix LX 017

Unless a person is a convinced Heavy Metal head banger or someone weaned on Buddy Rich records the idea of a solo percussion CD may be anathema. But the sonic advantage that accrues from playing improvised music is that freed from regularized beats and accompaniment, a drummer is ideally only limited by imagination. This quartet of percussionists craftily ensures that each solo session demands attention using distinct strategies.

Crucial to the single improvisation created by Italian-born New York-based Carlo Costa on Silos is taking advantage of the spatial qualities of the abandoned silo near Rome in which he recorded. Acoustics reflect sounds he generates with appropriate found objects such as branches, bricks, logs, metal pipes, stones and gardening tools, with the program evolving over a faint backdrop of passing birds, dogs, cicadas, planes and auto noises. Beginning with nearly soundless cricket-like rubs, timbral crackles and pipe swats, Costa becomes more percussive snapping wooden branches like firecrackers and emphasizing metal-resonating clunks. Counteracting intractable material rubs with clatters, clunks and pops on plastic- objects, the background textures encompass sizzling hisses, splashing vibrations and air swishes, eventually quieting down to understated rattles and pumps at mid point. Following a sequence of inflating noises emanating from pipes tapped with bell-like pings and wooden implement reverberations, shakes and rolls become more muted and dissected. A concluding whack is followed by a distant coda of dog barks and motor rumbles.

Moving from the agrarian near outdoors to the sound laboratory is Lille-based drummer Peter Orins whose two-track disc is designed to expose two percussion hypotheses. “Vrtn” projects unusual timbres by resonating objects such as wood, metal and glass on the drums, with software and electronics adding further textural progressions. Meanwhile “Vbrtn” mixes craft and chance by creating drums harmonies with the technique of inserting a wooden stick between cymbal and floor tom, with the subsequent resonations extended with an additional three floor toms and three cymbals. Beginning with a protracted drone, the random rotation on “Vrtn” is coupled with electronic whizzes followed by further stick-against-cymbal scratches later subsumed beneath opaque hisses. The subsequent rumbles, ruffs and bangs alternate with shrill oscillations which appear to turn on and off at will. Unanticipated textures that variously resemble harmonica inhaling and cocktail glass shakes join the polyphonic narrative. Slightly before the conclusion the conveyer belt of continuous drum rumbles thickens until aviary whistles provide contrast and conclusion. “Vbrtn” is lower pitched and concentrated as the additional cymbals and toms are layered to multiply the exposition. The deeper, darker pulses are also reaction against the few ragged ruffs and metal splashes heard. While the final sequence suggests a regularized beat that is almost twice as loud as the introduction, the affiliated buzzes finally segment into single echoing bangs.

Moving across the channel to the UK, London’s Steve Noble uses only a snare drum, cymbals and percussion on a single track involvement with sound affiliation and extensions. Bullroarer like whistling vibrato at the start gradually gives way to a cymbal rubbed on the drum top with affiliated sawing and strumming textures. Throughout the improvisation allocated vibrations are expressed in their most protracted form so that tone echoes hang in the air after items are struck. Using slender stick pings to mark motif changes, the intonations soon thickens with drum top knocks and buzzing cymbal scrapes. Unique, the subsequent textures heard could alternately come from reed or brass instruments. Signaling another shift with J Arthur Rank-like gong resonation, Noble’s paradiddle pops and staccato ruffs share space with chain rattling and bell-tree-like chiming before he makes an unexpected about face into a Jo Jones-like snapping Swing beat. As diminishing tone echoes fade into door-stopper-like reverberations, Noble creates new textures by unearthing what sound like small animal squeaks that alternate with Mylar rubs, bell peals and cymbal buzzes. Just as it seems the buzz will dominate the sonic space and become an impenetrable mass, chain rolling, miniature cymbal claps and on-target drum smacks introduce brighter tones which resonate like those at the track’s beginning.

The only drummer to segment his solo disc into four tracks, Etables sur Mer’s Tiri Carreras makes use of sound additions as well. Overall though, Élan Vital is the most percussive and most oriented towards the standard kit of these dates. Digging into the snare with a fiddle bow on snare at the top and completing the session with squeals and tough enough stick strokes that two drummers could be involved; the French percussionist makes his most distinctive statements on the two middle tracks. With the power and sound of a freight train passing on “Om”, Carreras creates a texture that rubs almost opaque low-pitched vibrations against unyielding metal. This is eventually fragmented with strident squeals and squeaks as vibrating slaps push the theme into silence. “TranSimmenSe” is introduced by unattached cymbal patterns and bell slaps as the exposition rolls forward, eventually mating metal rasps with wooden echoes. Balancing shrill and softened tones in the second sequence, Carreras drum rolls, nerve beats and rim shots finally are muted into miniature bell-tree shakes and cymbal crashes. Interestingly, like Noble’s sub divisions, his final sequence is almost a conventional Jazz solo, hitting a groove until the pulverized patterns fade to quiet tinkles.

While Metalheads and Swing alligators may find little to hold on to here, the breath of invention exhibited in varied ways on these sessions should attract open-minded percussion appreciators.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Silos: 1. Silos:

Personnel: Silos: Carlo Costa (percussion)

Track Listing: Vrtn: 1. Vrtn 2. Vbrtb

Personnel: Vrtn: Peter Orins (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Solo: 1. Solo

Personnel: Solo: Steve Noble (snare drum, cymbals and percussion)

Track Listing: Élan: 1. SchuSs 2. Om 3. TranSimmenSe 4. PyropercuSsi

Personnel: Élan: Tiri Carreras (percussion)