Kevin Drumm – Humid WeatherMay 6, 2013
Around the turn of the millennium I was a big fan of Kevin Drumm’s music. His first two or three albums, and some of his collaborative releases were highly influential on me, and I followed his every move. Then, at some point, he released what is probably his best known, and most popular album, Sheer Hellish Miasma. For whatever reasons, most of them probably related to the sudden upward shift in volume Drumm underwent with that release, I just didn’t connect with the disc, and while others all shouted from the rooftops about it, my copy disappeared onto a shelf somewhere. I should probably listen to the album again, through less prejudicial ears, but I currently can’t find the disc anywhere here. It will turn up. So as I pretty much gave up following what Drumm was doing. I don’t necessarily regret this. We can’t all follow everything (as best as I try) and I found (and to a degree still do find) it very difficult to connect with very much of the output of the North American noise music scene. Anyway, over the last few years a seemingly constant stream of little CDr and cassette releases have appeared, most of them self released from Drumm’s own, nameless label, sold through a completely uncommercial blog page that is littered with the inevitable spam that follows a successful blog around. Always a sucker for when musicians self release a pile of their work (cf: Malfatti, Houben etc…) I put in a couple of orders recently and a pile of material now awaits my ears. So far I have heard the one disc.
The CDr in question is a two track work named Humid Weather, that is indeed something of two very different halves. The first piece, clocking in at near enough exactly twenty minutes opens with what sounds like drips of water pouring onto something metallic, but probably isn’t, until a couple of minutes in, much to my surprise on the first listen, this strangely rhythmic sequence is overlaid by a field recording of a thunderstorm that rolls around the recording menacingly for several minutes, joined by the sound of pouring rain, little bleeps and whistles and who knows what else as the piece curls up into a cauldron of activity. At around the eleven minute mark, it all then cuts dead and falls immediately into an incredibly mournful, single, distant electronic wail, that itself is later joined by a unintelligible female voice, maybe recorded over a telephone, or radio perhaps, and then more rain-like sounds. It is, all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable piece of slow, flowing musique concrete complete with a couple of unexpected jump-cuts. It gets wild for a while, but its never chaotic, never overly loud and while thunderstorms on CDs are far from original, the music harnesses that natural energy with just enough added to it to make the piece a good listen.
The second track is very different, and while on one hand it doesn’t sit in the comfort zones I usually enjoy as well as the first piece does, it may actually be the better track here. The piece contains what sounds vaguely like racing car engines swooping past a microphone, repeatedly, at different pitches and with the fidelity of the recordings slowly degrading. The piece decays as it gains momentum, spiralling often out into digital twists and careering around with more than a degree of venom, but it doesn’t ever slip into any kind of lazy pattern, and indeed surprises you again, when after six of seven minutes it cuts to the same distant burbling sound that opened the first track, only quieter, before returning with a wall of white noise infused splatter seconds later.
My failure to connect with the more aggressively abrasive side of the noise scene when it first began to enter my consciousness a few years back had quite a bit to do with the sense of aggression and violence that seemed to come out of the music and its associated imagery and posturing. A little older, a little less susceptible to that kind of annoyance I have slowly (perhaps very slowly) found myself acquainting with the more interesting elements of the noise scene a little easier. If you asked me beforehand, I would have expected to have got more from the first piece here than the dense mesh of electronic sounds that is the second. Somehow though, as long as I can sense depth and detail in the music, and so long as it really doesn’t feel like one big testosterone fuelled surge of otherwise pointless energy, I am enjoying wallowing in this kind of material. It has a spiteful vibrancy to it that shakes me as easily as it annoys the hell out of my hi-fi speakers. This release from Kevin Drumm obviously deliberately places two contrasting approaches alongside each other. Maybe there is a connection beyond the tiny glimpse we have of the first track in the moment’s lull in the second. Perhaps the source sounds for the latter track are the same as those in the former, this indeed may be the case, but the music here at least feels like it has some meaningful structure behind it, a thought-through plan brought to fruition over the two months it took to make in 2012. Apologies then for working through my own failings and misgivings in a CD review, but this is an enjoyable disc. A dozen or so more Drumm offerings await me, and we shall see if patience wears thinner than prejudices as I work my way through them, but if you can find a copy of Humid Weather you probably should.