The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam
featuring Bill Bruford and Keiko Abe
Go Between, Ruud Weiner; Redbone, Niels Le Large; Marimba Spiritual, Minoru Miki; Maenaden, Peter Prommel.
This disc is a 20th anniversary rerelease of the same recording found on EG Records Ltd and contains some really fun and cleanly performed music for percussion ensemble. According to Niels Le Large, “There is still a hollow tree trunk inside every one of us” and this disc makes a strong case for the statement.
Go Between and Maenaden are strong bookend pieces for the disc. Both rely upon a dialog between keyboard and drumset percussion streams. Go Between uses Bill Bruford as a destabilizing element which disrupts the cool and serene keyboard grooves. The dialog between forces is quite compelling and, while I could always use more disruption, well balanced. Maenaden is less about disruption between the two ensemble sounds and more about the gradual exertion of the almost raga-like keyboards’ supremacy. I really dug the transformation of the drumset’s role in the ensemble (first as a kind of agitator and later as a supportive groove-meister).
Redbone is the direct manifestation of Niels Le Large’s quote. Log drums and peacock gongs are used in a soundscape of ritual and ceremony that still maintains a certain primal quality. Marimba Spiritual, the ubiquitous mini-concerto for marimba and percussion, gets stellar treatment from soloist Keiko Abe. The technique in the soloist and the ensemble is also crisp and precise. The music of Marimba Spiritual is much more emotive that the preceding piece which makes it a wonderful foil to Redbone.
The precision of the recording is almost startling and the purity of sound borders on stark austerity. This is an excellent feature to the disc, as the technique and clarity of the performers are laid bare. On the other hand, sometimes I felt that the lower frequencies suffered a bit and made some of the portions sound a little cold and mechanical, undercutting some the this musics’ strong primal nature. At the end of the day, though, this is an excellent CD to have. The pieces are well balanced and programmed and performed to perfection.