Review: Various Artists – Free Percussion (Tsss Tapes, Feb 6)

Free Percussion, the inaugural release on Francesco Covarino’s fledgling Tsss Tapes imprint, collects recordings by twelve abstract percussionists, each presenting an unrestricted improvisation using anything from a standard kit to toy instruments and bells. Claire Rousay, a San Antonio-based artist examining a wide range of concepts through her music, begins the set with an object-based kit performance whose unchecked scrapes, swirls, and rolls are mirrored by similarly whimsical later pieces such as Simon Camatta‘s “Concrete Love.” This is the best part about Free Percussion, that it both distinguishes and exposes similarities in these singularly creative musicians; comparisons can be drawn between the Tinguely-esque junk cacophony of Ted Byrnes’ “No” and the fluid drones explored by Tim Daisy on “For Ogden,” a kinship strengthened by their adjacent placing in the track list, even though it’s not as easy to conclude that the artists had anything alike in mind when they began playing. In addition to introducing and tracing connections between artists new to me, Free Percussion also gives me the opportunity to view pieces by my favorites in the context of their contemporaries; the intimate object orchestras of Rie Nakajima, the instantly recognizable malleted cymbals of Will Guthrie, and Covarino’s own quiet drags are even more captivating amidst kindred works.

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