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Kevin Drumm, "Earrach"

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cover imageKevin Drumm’s incredible run of handmade CD-Rs continues this year despite the termination of his Recreational Panick blog. At the end of August, Drumm simultaneously announced the availability of his last few homemade discs and the existence of a new Bandcamp page, which he promptly filled with several digital reissues of limited cassette and CD-R editions from 2011 and 2012. Three new albums followed shortly thereafter, of which the tape-based two-disc Earrach—that’s Gaelic for “spring”—is one. Appropriately, Drumm has filled it with fleshy, muddy, physical music. It's sloppy, weird, and suggestive; and an absolutely killer recording that squirms and jumps with warped alien life.


The list of equipment used to record Earrach is short and simple: tapes, a Tascasm 414, a Kenwood 1080 receiver, and two handheld cassette recorders. Drumm includes just two other lines of information on the back of the album’s green paper sleeve. The second reads “cassette tape music.” The first, “caisead fusillade,” which marries the Gaelic word for “cassette” to a term associated with firearms and bombardments.

It’s not a bad description of the music inside. Earrach absolutely explodes with action. For nearly 90 minutes Kevin splices churning tape ruckus with slithering squeals, awkward gurgling, gooey mouth sounds, and other bizarre noises that have a rather wet, just-born quality about them. Fuzzy bits of melody, the odd vocal snippet, and stroboscopic effects take flight in the mix too. They briefly move the music from its wormy ground floor to higher ground, where it shines, screams, and sputters out. But the crackling, closely recorded passages receive the most time and attention.

Drumm comes at each one of those passages a little differently. A few segments begin simply then become more complex, some hit the pavement loud and chaotic, then slowly disintegrate; others simply pop into existence fully formed, buzz about for awhile, and then disappear. In each case the emphasis always falls squarely on the sound—structure be damned. The tiny fluctuations in the tape’s surface, the variations in rhythm and color that emerge as it’s manipulated, the quiet music that bubbles out of apparently random interactions, all of it feels sculpted and palpable; physically present, like a cassette version of David Tudor’s Rainforest IV, but with the logic behind it, if it exists, totally obscured.

What the concluding conversation about Star Trek and Captain Kirk has to do with any of that is a total mystery. The final 19 minute track sees Drumm pull his microphone out of the muck and the grime and into the open air. It focuses on an organ solo for a long time, then catches a child yelling from across the room before settling on a vacuum-like buzz. Flickering voices light up in the spaces between, but if there’s a narrative hiding somewhere in the mix, it is virtually invisible, and unnecessary anyway. The noise Kevin Drumm makes is fascinating enough on its own.


  • The last copies of Kevin Drumm’s hand-packaged CD-Rs are available through ErstDist. The Recreational Panick page also mentions Tochnit Aleph, but I was unable to find copies listed on their website. Earrach and other albums can be previewed and downloaded from Drumm’s Bandcamp page as well.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 October 2013 21:48  


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