ALVIN CURRAN – Drumming Up Trouble LP

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Previously unissued music by Alvin Curran. Collecting works recorded between 2018-2021 and a side-long epic dating back to the early 80s, as the title suggests, »Drumming Up Trouble« focuses on a hitherto almost unknown aspect of Curran’s encyclopaedic and omnivorous musical world: his experiments with sampled and synthesised percussion.

As Curran’s wonderful, wildly sweeping liner notes make clear, his fascination with drumming belongs to the radical investigation of music’s fundamental elements that has marked his output since the beginnings of MEV, who aimed (as he says in a recent interview) to return 'in some collective way to a non-existent start time in the history of human music'. Whatever kind of music our proto-human ancestors played, he writes, 'drums were front and centre in the mix. Drums rule!'

In a paradox typical of Curran’s approach, »Drumming Up Trouble« interrogates this most ancient dimension of music with contemporary technology. On the first side, we hear recent pieces performed using the sampling software and full-size MIDI keyboard setup Curran has refined since the 1980s. Two of them are wild real-time improvisations, primarily utilising an enormous bank of hip-hop samples. Building from polyrhythmic layers of drum machine fragments to wild cacophonies of clashing vocal samples, scratching, and frantic pitch shifting, these energetic and at times hilarious pieces occupy a space somewhere between John Oswald’s Plunderphonics, Pat Thomas and Matt Wand in the Tony Oxley Quartet, and the propulsive Kudoro/Grime fusion of Lisbon’s Príncipe label. They are improvisations are accompanied by two austere, minimal compositions realised in collaboration with Angelo Maria Farro: »End Zone« for orchestral bass drum and high oscillator, and »Rollings«, where a snare roll is gradually stretched and filtered by digital means into ‘floating electronic gossamer’.