GLENN KOTCHE , percussionist – Mobile – Nonesuch 79927-2, 40:50 ** or ***** depending:
Kotche is the drummer with rock groups Wilco and Loose Fur, and in this one-man percussion extravaganza presents eight original works employing an arensal of instruments – including vibes, mbira, Balinese gongs, a drum kit, and various homemade percussive variations – some of them involving contact mics and electronic manipulation a la John Cage and others. One of Nonesuch’s VPs said the disc “brings together his rock experience, his classical training, his love of traditional music from around the world, and his knowledge of contemporary composition.” Kotche certainly is an exception to common concept of a rock drummer being a crude and noisy beat-maker with no subtlety.
My vacillation on rating is because although this album would probably not be a pleasant listening experience for the average older classical fan, younger listeners appreciating ambient, experimental and noise music would likely appreciate Kotche’s originality and creativity, even they were not classical listeners. The opening track of Clapping Music Variations takes us to Steve Reich minimalist territory. Parts 1 & 2 of Mobile Parts is a sort of minimalist audio mobile featuring plucked string, very low-frequency drum beats and what sounds like a Farfisa keyboard. There are purposely distorted sounds in part 2 I found annoying and quite unlike the purposeful distortion achieved in some rock guitar recordings.
Projections of What Might makes use of many drum loops. At over 11 minutes the longest track is Monkey Chant, which the notes claim to be an accurate percussion-only retelling of the Ramayana tale portrayed by the chorus of Indonesian men imitating the familiar monkey hubbub. Kotche even provide notes listing the various actions of the drama carried out by its characters on a minute-to minute basis. I have to admit I didn’t get it, and would prefer to hear the real Kechak chant – but not 11 minutes of it please. Reduction or Imitations track would appeal greatly to ambient & noise fans, and extremely distorted drum sounds that seem to be tapes playing backwards are heard in Individual Trains. The only track I would personally like to hear again is the final one – Fantasy on a Shona Theme. It is an evocative African thumb piano tune transposed to the vibes.
– John Sunier