Ramon Lopez, |
Eleven Drums Songs
(Leo Lab, 1998)
Solo percussion albums: funny things. They look off-putting on paper, like a rock drum solo that goes on for an hour. Yet they can be hugely involving; a percussionist like Ramon Lopez is by no means tied to a trap set stool, and he uses a full range of sounds here to define the different pieces, though he shies away from tuned percussion.
Lopez has an unusual approach to rhythm which takes some getting used to. Mostly he eschews regular pulse in favour of a lurching fast-slow convulsion which, for example, has him alternating ride cymbal accelerandos with what-next pauses on "Drummers Remembered." His dynamics are delicately handled, too, as evidenced by a five-and-a-half minute performance focussed mainly on a pair of cowbells. No problems at a technical level, then, and his sense of drama is pretty accurate, too. There are few "bald spots" and the music flows very convincingly. Lopez tends to use simple patterns to build and lend structure to these pieces, which are presumably improvisations on these initial ideas.
After a while, one hardly misses the presence of harmony or melody instruments here, in part because Lopez's setup for most pieces includes a number of instruments from the same family which give a rough element of melodic shape to the sound, but in part also because texture and rhythm provide interest enough. Sometimes -- as for example on "Beauty and the Best" -- these pieces sound like spectacular solos excised from a group performance, and then they are less successful. At others, Lopez manages to create a whole world and a piece of rounded music from his drums, as on the haunting membranophone-based "The Final Shroud."
Percussionists will love this disk. Others should not be scared off, but are bound to approach with caution.
[ by Richard Cochrane ]