Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Internal Combustion

Listened twice today to Internal Combustion by percussionist Glen Velez - an excellent record! The CD is a 2003 reissue on the Schematic label of what was presumably a vinyl release in 1985. The record is almost entirely solo percussion pieces for various frame drums - North African and Central Asian variants of the humble tambourine, the Irish bodhran and so on.

The pieces are generally repetitive with a regular pulse and no extreme dynamic shifts - a gentle avantgarde-ism that should appeal to anyone who likes Steve Reich's early percussion work (on which Velez has played). The exquisitely precise timbres of the instruments and the fact that the recording captures all their nuance is where much of the beauty lies. Often in Western music, popular and in the concert hall, "exotic" percussion instruments are employed for a bit of passing color and are tucked off to the side of the stage or recorded listening field. In this case, they are in the foreground and miked with such detail that your head could be inside the drum (in a good way!). Every snare rattle and ping of finger on taut goatskin drumhead is delicately rendered.

I also very much like the fact that such quintessentially acoustic music keeps reminding me of experimental electronic "dance" music, particularly Thomas Brinkmann, a similarity that probably hasn't escaped the folks at the Schematic label, whose usual stock in trade is just such music.

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