You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.
AOTW for this week is probably the heaviest record yet in the series, and I don’t mean instrumentally heavy. Control by Pedro The Lion is a concept album about the pit of American materialism interwoven with the lack of moral fiber in American social and family life. Yeah… heavy. The lyrical content of Control is easily the most artistically deep, dark, controversial, poignant, and powerful of any record that I own. All of these things exist simultaneously in the text of the album, which is itself impressive… but then the music comes in and interprets the message so incredibly spot-on that the record catapults from impressive to utterly brilliant.
The only consistent band member in now defunked Pedro The Lion was David Bazan. Control was the band’s 3rd of four official releases. Aside from some auxiliary instrumentation from friend Casey Fourbert, the record is basically just a Bazan solo album: he wrote the songs, sang, played guitar, played bass, played drums, and even played some keys. The sonic vibe of the record is very indie rock, but without too much of the standard 8th note guitar strum. Avoiding stereotypical indie rock guitar playing is one of Bazan’s strengths in my opinion, although the overall indie vibe remains. In fact, Control is probably the only Bazan album that could be fairly called a “rock” record at all – the other Pedro records are much calmer and more acoustic-driven. Control is definitely the loudest and most aggressive record thus far from Bazan, but don’t misunderstand me… this album definitely contains the simplest and most raw instrumental performances of any AOTW feature. As I mentioned above, the real shining point of the playing is the way it so perfectly translates the lyric. A concept album through and through.
Despite its simplicity, I do listen to this record for inspiration in my own playing from time to time. Bazan’s drumming has a great sloppy-but-grooving feeling to it, and his ideas for patterns/fills are creative and appropriate. I particularly love his snare tone, and the way the compression breathes on his crash-ride during the more rocking moments.
I listened to Control last week for the first time in a couple years, and I was reminded how much I love it. In fact, I’d probably put this album in my top-20 favs of all time. You can listen to the record here, and you can check out David Bazan’s current happenings here.
For those of you who didn’t make it out to the Cedar for the Bill Mike record release a few weeks ago, here’s a cool feature that the Pioneer press did on the show. There’s interview footage, and some clips from the performance, although the audio quality sounds like the guy recorded the show with his cell phone while it was still in his pocket.
Now, I’m talking JAZZ here, but, in that category, my all time favs are:
5) Brian Blade, 4) Jack Dejohnette, 3) Jeff Watts, 2) Elvin Jones… and…
my number one: Tony Williams
I’ve posted about Tony before, and I’m sure I will again. In my opinion, there has never been a drummer with a more perfect combination of energy, creativity, technical ability, and discipline. I’m thinking about Tony again tonight because I just came across some footage of a clinic he did, filmed at a Zildjian Day in the 80’s…
It’s a six-part series of videos, and it covers quite a few topics. To be honest, I think clinics in general (even with great drummers like Tony), are always somewhat hit and miss, but this footage alone makes the clips worth watching.
HT: Matt Schiebe
Notice toward the end of the clip when the interviewer completely botches her facts on the Nirvana cover that The Bad Plus did on their first record. Awesome.
I titled this post as “Practicing, pt. 2” because it’s a follow-up (and somewhat of a rephrasing) of an earlier post on the topic of practicing. I mentioned difficulty quite a bit in the previous post on practicing, and after some thinking about the specific issue of difficulty on the drumset, I’ve come up with a theory that seems accurate, and has been quite helpful to me. Here it is in tenet-argument form:
1) Anything that you could possibly dream up to play on the drumset is either impossible, or difficult. Only those two options exist. And…
2) Difficulty is subjective. Things that some drummers think are difficult are easy for other drummers, and something that you think is difficult now might not be in a few months. Therefore…
3) Difficulty is really just a mask for unfamiliarity. Difficulty itself doesn’t exist – it’s a mirage. And…
4) Becoming familiar with something just takes time. Hours spent wrestling with an idea or pattern will take it from being unfamiliar and make it familiar. As the transition from unfamiliar to familiar takes place, the difficulty will evaporate. Therefore…
5) It is only a matter of time before you can play whatever you want. As long as the idea/pattern isn’t impossible, you need only to put in the time and effort to become familiar with it and you will soon be playing it.
This may seem like a fancy way to say the old mantra of “practice makes perfect,” but it has helped me a lot in that it casts a positive light on everyone’s potential. For the longest time I would see another drummer play something, and think to myself, “I’ll never be able to do that.” Well, if another drummer is doing it, then that obviously rules out the option that the thing is impossible, and, according to the above argument, I just need to remind myself that I can someday play that idea/pattern if I put in enough time and effort to get familiar with it. This turns the viewing of an incredible drummer playing a very difficult thing into motivation for practicing, instead of a demoralizing reminder of how “not good” I may think I am.
I recently got a chance to hear some of the rough tracks from Sara Renner‘s upcoming record, for which Michael Bland played all the drums. Oh man. That guy is so good. Hearing his playing on Sara’s music prompted me to revisit the latest Jonny Lang record, Turn Around, which also features Bland on drums, and is now the AOTW for this week. Turn Around is currently one of my favorite albums, and definitely Lang’s best so far. But, if you’re looking for a standard review of the record, then click here, because this post is going to be about Bland.
Michael Bland is known for basically one thing: Solid. Other appropriate descriptions would be words like “precise,” “exact,” and “perfect.” Nowhere is that more evident than on Turn Around. Bland’s grooves and fills are so tightly and cleanly executed that it literally sounds… well, perfect. BUT, he can also pull out some sick chops whenever he wants to, and the cool thing about Turn Around is that Bland delivers a heavy dose of BOTH the solid and the chops. Nice.
Take, for instance, the 3rd track on the album, “One Person At A Time.” The shuffle feel is so crisp, but Bland also manages to drop in some very cool ideas… ideas that are NOT easy to play. You can really tell that playing a deep shuffle doesn’t take every ounce of his focus, and he’s able to easily throw curve balls of all kinds into the mix while not sacrificing any of his trademark precision.
Also noteworthy is Bland’s approach on “Thankful.” Listen carefully to this one, and notice how he doesn’t bother with any cymbals other than the hats for the whole track. No crashes, no ride… nothing but hats. The song just relaxes in the thick gospel 4 on the floor that Bland is throwing down, and nothing else is needed.
And then there’s the final track, “It’s Not Over,” where Bland lays out the deepest swung 6/8 cross-stick groove that anybody’s ever heard, and proceeds to mercilessly drive through every rudiment he knows at the tune’s closing. Honestly, I’ve never heard anybody be so grooving and so busy on the same track. It’s refreshing.
I’m gonna try and track down a few more albums that Michael Bland plays on, and I bet they’ll soon make their way into Album of the Week fame. Until then, go get Turn Around and listen to it 20 times in a row. AND, if you’re a Twin Cities local, you can see Bland playing every Monday night at Bunkers with a really great funk cover band called Dr. Mambo’s Combo.
The new Bill Mike Band record, TRUCE, is out today. We will be playing a release show tonight at the Cedar Cultural Center, and we will have all the amps on 11. More details here. See below for some reviews of the record, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Other good quotes in this video…
“This is rock and roll”
“Crash cymbal” (2x)