Glenn Kotche: Adventureland
Eight years after his first composer-centric album Mobile, percussionist/composer Glenn Kotche (of Wilco fame) has released a second recording featuring a selection of chamber pieces all under the heading Adventureland. With some of the very finest musicians of the new music world in tow—including Kronos Quartet and members of eighth blackbird—he has created an engaging, sometimes playful/sometimes eerie, percussion-based landscape with twists and turns that are well worth exploring.
The most substantial piece on Adventureland is Anomaly, a work whose seven movements are sprinkled throughout the disc and serve as musical connective tissue. Originally premiered with Kronos Quartet at the 25th Anniversary San Francisco Jazz Festival in 2007, this recording is a richly layered journey through forests of strings, electronics, and percussion instruments—a landscape that will continue revealing details with further listens. In Anomaly Kotche reveals a knack for spinning a melody, and the piece demonstrates a satisfying weaving of musical lines and integration of larger thematic elements. The other multi-movement work, The Haunted, for two pianos and percussion, sports jagged rhythms and repeating patterns that smack a bit of literal translation from drum set playing. Nevertheless, the unique textures of each movement unfold in delightfully unexpected ways, as do the two single-movement pieces, The Traveling Turtle and Triple Fantasy.
Nils Bultmann: Troubadour Blue
While “viola duets” might not normally inspire a ton of listening excitement, think again: The ten duets on Nils Bultmann’s album Troubadour Blues are quite ravishing. Assembled over a period of years from bits and pieces of solo improvisations, they are performed by the composer and Kronos violist Hank Dutt. Scattered about the album, they range in tone from somber to frenetic; here’s to hoping that violists everywhere embrace these lovely little pieces.
In From the Depths, viola meets didjeridu in a four-movement work that compellingly explores the timbral relationship between the two instruments. (People, there should be more pieces for this instrument pairing!) The final work on the album is Suite for Solo Cello, performed by Parry Karp and quite clearly inspired (even without information from the liner notes) by the Bach Cello Suite #1 in G Major.
Man Forever: Ryonen (with So Percussion)
Percussionist John Colpitts has yet another name in addition to his Kid Millions moniker—Man Forever, which is his experimental percussion persona. For his new LP Ryonen, he has teamed up with So Percussion to create a drumming smorgasbord of chaotic gratification. It’s tough not to think immediately of joyfully spastic Sunday drumming-in-the-park gatherings while listening to The Clear Realization and Ryonen, the two works on this album. The Clear Realization is a polyrhythmic study performed on two drum sets, bongos, and assorted other percussion with voice—a propulsive and exciting affair. The title track piles layer upon layer of percussion onto the more focused material of the first track, as if a huge group of people just joined in the drumming after a topsy-turvy drinking spree. Rhythmic patterns pop through the busy surface texture, and the resonance of the drums, especially the persistent bass drum played with soft beaters, creates a drone element that floats around the percolations.
It would without a doubt be an excellent thing to hear these pieces performed live—much better than Sunday park drumming, really—and you lucky New York people will be able to do just that next week at Le Poisson Rouge.