We might as well just give up on the rest of music and concentrate our energies on listening to Kevin Drumm all the time. His output continues to pour out with 'Trouble', a deathly quiet forty-minute composition that abstracts sound beyond the conventions of all music -- even that trusty drone stuff, bless its stubborn heart. Drumm's sound experiments become more sound than music, here, and he navigates the difference with intrigue for both himself and the listener.
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- Trouble by Kevin Drumm
8/10 Jim Staff review, 29 October 2014
There's no let up in Kevin Drumm's release schedule. He's already put out some pretty astonishing recordings this year, but this is probably gonna be the most talked about. And the reason for this? Because it features a single fifty-plus minute track that's so quiet you have to turn the volume right up and sit next to the speakers to hear anything at all. I guess most people will have first heard of Drumm through the waves generated by his 2002 album, 'Sheer Hellish Miasma' (also on Mego), which was remarkable for its face-melting ferocity. Hence the shock of this, his 'quietest' album yet.
And I must admit, I was nervous of having to turn the volume dial up so much to hear anything there at all; wary that it was a ruse to draw listeners in before unleashing the mother of all sonic shit-storms. But what Drumm does is far more subtle and unsettling than that. Turn this record up and you'll hear distant sounding, alien frequencies drifting in and out of the icy silence. There are no dynamic shifts beyond being barely there and not there at all; no melodic development beyond the overlapping of haunted tones that sometimes coalesce like a strange mirage from a distant netherworld. The effect is quite mesmerising; the almost random sounding, aimlessly unfolding nature and unresolved melancholia of the music holds a similar allure to some of Morton Feldman's longform compositions, without actually sounding anything like them.
If you consider that much of Drumm's earliest work was as a 'lower-case' improviser- collaborating with the likes of Taku Sugimoto and Axel Dörner, players who tend to work on the threshold of silence- this record is not quite as surprising as it first appears. And again, the unearthly aura of the music, that sounds like a kind of cosmically distilled version of some of the eerie recordings made by Keiji Haino's Nijiumu, has a disturbing, almost malevolent undercurrent- suggestive of those forces hostile to human survival that Drumm loves to invoke. That all this detail lies partially hidden beneath such a veil of near palpable quietness seems to add to the sense of malignant passive aggression that characterises Drumm's drone works. So, all in all, a unique and fascinating experience that doesn't run as against the grain of Kevin Drumm's deviant musical trajectory as might first appear.
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