Review: I N S T I T U T R I C E – Cohortes (Un je-ne-sais-quoi, Jan 29)

Yet another spellbinding adventurous percussion release on Un je-ne-sais-quoi, Cohortes is an impossibly lush sonic journey. French drummers Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy and Éric Bentz, recording for what appears to be the first time as I N S T I T U T R I C E (which is quite fun to type, by the way), has assembled an extremely diverse kit from household objects and tools, assorted traditional instruments (“singing bowl or gongs”), and actual drum components, but the textural tapestries woven through palpably forceful strikes and slaps move as single entities. Opener “Cantabrica” builds to catastrophic tension levels before suddenly dissipating, leaving a hypnotic calm of natural hum and birdsong that permeates the peripherals of the following “Werner,” an epic, shifting odyssey escalated as much by sharp-edged, ever-rising synth drones as by the duo’s own impressive physical performance. Even when there seems to be only one simultaneous percussion track, their spider-limbed attacks create the illusion of countless other additions and layers, the result of both the speed at which they switch between contrasting targets and our minds trying to make sense of such complexity. And when there are layers—as on the brief but incredible “Bouquet” couplet, in which a distant gong and chiming metallic rolls are augmented by wet crackles and grating horns—Geoffroy and Bentz know exactly how much or how little energy with which to imbue the “main course.” Not so dark or dissonant that it’s unsettling, nor so colorful and whimsical that it’s saccharine, Cohortes is the fiercest neutral, like the wild, awe-inspiring intensity of the jungle: plenty of harmless harmony to see and hear, but you’d better not stay in one place for too long.

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