Your humble blogger is taking a trip to the indie music side of things with a look at drummer Man Forever’s (a.k.a. Kid Millions, a.k.a. John Colpitts) recent self-titled LP. The composer in me is particularly intrigued by this record’s textural density and the absence of a goal-oriented form (Ye of the Academy might prefer the term non-teleological).
The two-part, 34-minute work envelops the listener in a constant, multi-layered flurry of overdubbed drum patterns and highly distorted bass. Ben Sisario of the New York Times describes the resultant sound as “something like free jazz and something like hummingbird feedback.” In addition to jazz drumming, I hear a number of disparate associations including subtle echoes of Pléïades (1978) by Iannis Xenakis and old school sci-fi soundtracks. Man Forever cites Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music (1975) as his primary inspiration.
As mentioned before, this piece doesn’t yield any sort of traditional formal shape. The constant stream of sound never succumbs to dramatic shifts in tempo or texture, and a somewhat limited dynamic range is maintained throughout (mainly on the loud end of the spectrum). Sounds emerge from and recede into a constant whirl of background activity. High-pitched snare hits and cymbals that stand out at the beginning soon disappear into the mix. A chaotic, noisy bass asserts itslef at varying points throughout, sometimes playing single tones while other times offering up short melodic patterns.
From a purely sonic standpoint, Man Forever produces some interesting timbres. At one point, the bass takes on a gurgling, fuzzy, almost organ-like character. The change to softer mallets at the beginning of the second part allows for a more resonant quality that deemphasizes the actual drum strikes while elevating one’s sense of pitch.
In the end, this album combines human endurance/virtuosity with heavy use of processing. The resultant intensity seems attributable in equal measure to both. Man Forever has produced live performances of the work with the assistance of four or more additional drummers (an audio excerpt is available here). I hope at some point to attend one of these performances or at least see a video to get a sense of how the real-time version compares to the studio creation. More specifically, I would be curious to hear if a performance could achieve the broad range of sound qualities without degenerating into a muddy, amorphous sound blob.
Man Forever’s record is available in both LP and digital formats. It will likely engage those in the art music, jazz and indie camps.