Milford Graves was a mentor, amongst a bunch of different issues: percussionist, professor, autodidact, herbalist, acupuncturist, vegan, and the inventor of his personal martial artwork. Born in Jamaica, Queens, he was on the vanguard of ’60s free jazz within the New York Artwork Quartet, embarking on a visionary journey till his loss of life in 2021. He performed every kind of drums with every kind of issues—tire irons, pestles, the branches of timber—and developed a mode based mostly on the human coronary heart however overturned the nice falsehood that it beats in 4/4 time. To see him carry out—too many arms forking out, a whistle or a microphone in his mouth, or all this and extra—is to witness the nice yawp of the universe vibrating in a single mortal body.
For 4 many years, Graves taught at Bennington Faculty, the place Joe Westerlund was one in every of his pupils. Westerlund is a Wisconsin native who has had most of his music profession in North Carolina. He started because the drummer for the austerely psychedelic Americana band Megafaun within the 2000s and went on so as to add his refined, murmuring time to many tasks, particularly with the Justin Vernon camp (that’s the Wisconsin connection) and the Sylvan Esso/Mountain Man camp (the Bennington connection). It was at Sylvan Esso’s studio that he recorded Elegies for the Drift, his third album of solo percussion, a yr into his new life as a teacherless pupil.
Graves was not the one function mannequin whose loss, or imminent loss, Westerlund was grieving as he developed the album. There was his ailing father-in-law, for whom he hung the cosmos in a cell with a silvery, slowly spinning miniature, “Prelude to Quietude.” And there was his buddy Miles Cooper Seaton, who had died in a automobile accident the yr earlier than. “The Circle,” which contains Seaton’s voice and a hailstorm Westerlund recorded after he discovered of his passing, is seven cleaning minutes of what feels like rain beating on little bells and gongs. It’s the centerpiece of an album that belies preconceived notions about how solo percussion sounds.
Emphasizing a resonant, melodic palette of gamelan, thumb piano, idiophones, and metallophones, Elegies for the Drift strikes in periodic waves, in small impulses and intimate ideas—nothing so pat or pushy as beats. “You may’t put a dang-danka-dang and name that the swing rhythm,” stated Graves. For him, swing was survival, a solution to hold shifting by any means vital. Westerlund doesn’t put a dang-danka-dang. With heat digital impastos, impressionistic colours, and a songful mien, Elegies for the Drift is especially an ambient file. It’s important that “The Circle” has little apparent relation to Seaton’s music in Akron/Household, any greater than the remainder of the file overtly resembles Graves, who taught individuality above all else. Westerlund has discovered his personal tonic, yogic yawp; he discovered his classes nicely.
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