Percussion and words: the exact definition of "beat poetry." Drummer Benjamin Chadabe provides freeform accompaniment for Benjamin Hartlage's poems in The Metaphysician's Hammer. Images of light and darkness -- mostly the latter -- and of Man's failed grandeur populate the poet's texts, delivered by a calm, detached, neutral voice. Chadabe creates textures and settings, rumbling softly over the toms but most of the time concentrating on his cymbals and gongs, playing with padded mallets, emitting crystalline overtones. The album, recorded over two studio sessions in October 1998 and January 1999, has been conceived as a suite of alternating poems and percussion solos. The duets are not always convincing. The percussionist improvises nicely in a style closer to John Stevens or Eddie Prévost than anything like jazz, but the meeting of words and sounds happens only randomly. There is one important exception. "Solo 3," the longest track of the set at eight minutes, is a beautiful performance on cymbals. When Chadabe quiets down, Hartlage steps in to read "Metallic Frenzy," which begins, "A metallic frenzy/Drown in the aspic waters/I sink among flotsam and jelly fish." The synchronicity sends shivers down one's spine; the moment is exquisite. "Hell and Humdrums," where the levels of tension and energy are noticeably higher, also provides an interesting three minutes. The Metaphysician's Hammer is a fine album but will be of interest mostly for percussionists.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture