So Percussion

Glenn Kotche: Drumkit Quartets

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Percussionist Glenn Kotche is probably best known as a member of the alternative rock and Americana band Wilco, but he has pursued a parallel career as a composer of avant-garde concert music, often heavily flavored by percussion. Here, in seven works performed by the ensemble Sō Percussion, he works with percussion exclusively. The four drum kits can produce a substantial variety of sounds, from drones to melodies to noise to quasi-electronic textures to spoken text, and Kotche deploys them in clear structures with a propensity for contrasts between densely packed passages and sonic negative space. Some works primarily involve texture contrasts. The organization is rarely subtle, and that of the three-movement Drumkit Quartet #3 (tracks 3-5) differs little from the division of most of the single-movement works into sections. But Kotche is often quite imaginative in his sonic combinations. Sample the opening track, the ten-minute Drumkit #51, whose first section features a little mallet melody that undergoes constant small rhythmic shifts and is then joined by a drone and then various other fragments of noise. Throughout, Kotche avoids the extremes of minimalist stasis and meaninglessly aggressive noise, and although he might not mean it this way, his music is a lot of fun.

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