Some avant-garde artists challenge the notion of music as being melody, harmony and rhythm a little bit while others challenge that notion a lot. Percussion outlier Andrew Drury challenges us on both levels when he releases Content Provider and The Drum on the same day, February 17, 2015. The former presents Drury fronting a bass-less quartet that includes Brandon Seabrook on guitar and a Briggan Krauss/Ingrid Laubrock pair of saxophones. Any ensemble with Seabrook on it is bound to get at least a little wiggy and Content Provider delivers. Drury masters this grouping of diverse personalities as testified on the advance track “Keep The Fool.”
The Drum, however, is something else entirely. It’s just Drury alone, and not alone with even a complete drum kit, but just a floor-tom. Well, a floor-tom supplemented invariably by a faucet escutcheon, a bell and an aluminum sheet. Just a couple of mic’s and a few edits; no overdubs, electronic effects or the like (though listening to this, you’d swear electricity was involved in making the noise). To anyone else, that would severely limit his or her range of artistic expression, but Drury is not just anyone.
Drury is a tireless student of percussion who undoubtedly learned about the limitless range of the drum set from master teacher Ed Blackwell, but Drury has arguably gone further than Blackwell or anyone else in wringing previously unknown timbres out of that instrument, and much as famed saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk would blow through anything (including a rubber hose) in his quest for expanding his artistic horizons, Drury sees no boundaries as to what is possible with percussion.
The Drum, therefore, is an album about the possible. “Hidden Voices,” for instance, sounds like a cornet in need of an exorcism. “The Drum,” the titular track, mimics at times the roar of a thunderstorm and other times the swirling drone of a blizzard, interspersed with the buzzing tonality of electric static. Sometimes, things get a little caustic: the grunting, screeching and creaking on “Aluminum Donkey Dance” is a siren call for some 3-In-One oil. Amplifier feedback is replicated nearly perfectly on “Thesis/Antithesis.” A wide range of sometimes-droning, sometimes-croaking sonorities prevail over the eleven minutes of “Askew.” You get the idea, it’s a collection of alien noises but generated from very organic — read, unplugged — sources.
The absence of melody, harmony and rhythm doesn’t connote the absence of art. Resonances of any kind can resonate if they can also fascinate, and that’s the achievement of The Drum, made even more fascinating in that it nearly all comes from a single component of a percussion instrument. Andrew Drury’s imagination knows no bounds.
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