Booker Stardrum

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by Paul Simpson

Like his 2018 full-length, Temporary etc., Booker Stardrum's 2021 release CRATER is an electro-acoustic collage built from numerous improvised studio performances and sampled guest contributions. He has previously described his work as pan-tonal and pan-rhythmic, and the album maintains his fluid approach to layering sounds and structuring pieces, creating and moving through states of suspended animation. His own rapid, fluttery drumming plays a central role, but not in the most obvious or expected ways -- the beats are light and jittery in the snow globe-like opener "Diorama," and they almost seem ground into dust during the blurry "Yellow Smoke." "Bend" (one of several tracks featuring Deerhoof's John Dieterich, who mastered and helped mix and engineer the album) begins with an erratic sequence of pulverizing percussion, with ghostly textures gradually forming in the background. Jaimie Branch is credited as playing trumpet, but it's hard to tell what sound her instrument has been transformed into. Her horn is much more recognizable on "Walking Through Still Air," which starts as an atmospheric fanfare before punchy, miniscule beats tremble under the surface. "Steel Impression" goes for a slow build, beginning with a glitchy, stuck-in-place saxophone sample before chiming and crackling percussive instruments fuse with rushing drum rolls and sounds that are manipulated to resemble something like a hard stream of water splashing onto concrete. The piece develops into a fast-forward loop that reveals subtle melodies and expressions. "Parking Lot" has more playful IDM-ish melodies and clicky beats that jump rather than scatter. Stardrum's music holds together in a way that's hard to put one's finger on. He shapes spontaneous moments and sporadic rhythms into self-contained organisms that juxtapose rapid motion with stillness, and seem far too deliberate to be random.

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