Boomkat Product Review:
A dizzying collection of unreleased rhythm experiments put together by Alvin Curran using sampling software and drum machines. It's exploratory and completely unhinged music - like a plunderphonic reshaping of chaotic dancefloor forms and vintage hip-hop templates.
Back in 1974, influenced by Terry Riley and La Monte Young, Alvin Curran used found sounds, field recordings, bells, gamelans and synthesizer to patchwork "Songs and Views of the Magnetic Garden" - a fanciful re-imagining of new age music that gave these whimsical sounds context and humor. Since then the Rome-based American composer, sound artist and writer has quietly worked to challenge expectations, releasing unclassifiable works on Tzadik, Alga Marghen, and most recently Black Truffle.
"Drumming Up Trouble" is Black Truffle's first set of previously unissued work from Curran, and might be the maddest release we've heard from him yet. It focuses on the composer's rhythmic work, specifically his experiments with sampling software, drum machines and a MIDI controller that he's been tweaking since the 1980s. An omnivorous musical listener, Curran has been fascinated by rhythmic music of all kinds throughout his career: "Drums rule," he says in the album's press release.
The first side is all recent material, recorded between 2018 and 2021, the best of which reveals Curran's humor. The two 'Bay Area' tracks are fabricated from a bank of hip-hop samples and traverse uncharted territory for the composer, who clashes rhythms with snatches and chattering vocals. It sounds like decades of rap put into a liquidizer and granulated to within an inch of its life - worth hearing, basically.
Curran allows himself to flex his academic muscle on the remaining tracks 'Rollings' and 'End Zone', treating his rhythms with an equal level of vivacious disrespect but working in a less chaotic mode. On the flip-side, we're treated to lengthy 25-minute production 'Field It More' that Curran recorded in the early 1980s, inspired by James Brown. Using a Roland drum machine, a synth and an out-of-tune piano, Curran drives funk into outsider music and his resolve is astonishing. One for the paid-up weirdos, for sure.