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Kevin Drumm, "Elapsed Time"

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cover image This six disc box set is a nice time capsule for the extremely prolific Drumm's work from 2013 through 2016.  Which means, of course, by now this stuff is old hat and there is likely to be another 15 or so albums worth of material available to download at this point.  However, Drumm's work is something to be digested slowly and methodically, and with Giuseppe Ielasi ensuring a top quality remastering, it makes for an essential collection of work that is fitting for both new listeners and those who have been there for a while.


Elapsed Time is clearly a compilation, and one that culls from a multitude of digital only and extremely limited releases.  This also means that the approach Drumm uses for these works can differ greatly, from pure sine waves to computers to simply "found" recordings, though oddly enough none of the guitar he was initially recognized for.  Even pulled from these widely varying sources, however, there is a sense of cohesion to these recordings, even if they are unified only by Drumm's adept hand at composition and sound design.

The three pieces that make up much of "Equinox" (Disc Five) represent Drumm at his most minimal.  In this case what was used to make the recordings is unclear, but the result is a very sparse series of tones, mostly frozen on the first segment but more spacious and evolving on the second and third.  The tones rise and fall in pitch slowly, shifting around and conveying some dynamism as basic as they are.  For "The Sea Wins" he utilizes just sine, sawtooth, and pulse waves, but from that he constructs some beautiful, pure organ-like tones that grow and evolve as the piece develops for a bit over a half hour.

At other times, Drumm's focus shifts towards the more abrasive, distorted end of his art.  The five segments of "Tannenbaum" (a limited double cassette issued with the CD of the same name) begins with the same sort of tonal purity, but with an unquestionable bleakness that just gets worse as it goes on.  Eventually a buzzing synthesizer is expanded to a full on noise abyss, mixed with a bassy hum that feels like an early MB record stripped to its barest, darkest essentials.  Much of "February" is quiet, but leans very heavy on the lower end, preventing it from fading too much into the background.  It is sparse, but still commands attention via the rumbling electronics.  "Bolero Muter" is another harsher work within this set.  Via computer spectral processing, there is a buzzing, distorted sheen to the electronics that eventually builds to a full on wall of metallic noise before slowly mellowing back out.

Disc 3’s "Earrach (Part 1)" is one of the standout pieces here if for nothing else its sheer oddness compared to the rest of the set.  Consisting entirely of randomly selected pre-recorded tapes, Drumm mangles them as they play, capturing the sputtering motors and incidental noises that are inevitable with such a performance.  It has a more traditionalist “noise” feel to it, and is appropriately dense and jerky in sound and structure.  The set ends with the two part "The Whole House", created simply from a cheap hand-held tape cassette from Radio Shack and capturing the ambience in Drumm's home.  What begins as a sparse buzz eventually evolves into insect-like chirps and mangled tapes, building to a jet engine-like roar.  I am not sure exactly what goes on in Drumm’s house, but this makes it sound absolutely terrifying.

There is a lot to take in throughout Elapsed Time.  With six packed CDs, it amounts to nearly seven hours of Kevin Drumm experimentation.  As an artist who at times is a bit difficult (to say the least), it can be a challenge to absorb fully.  However, the vast array of styles and works to be had here makes it an engaging challenge, one that can differ widely from disc to disc, but never lacks the cohesion and touch of a master craftsman and composer working at the top of his game.





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