Friday, June 1, 2012

Solo Projects: Ches Smith and Jason Nazary

In the past week I've seen two solo drum performances that were also CD release parties. First I saw Ches Smith play at Zebulon, celebrating the release of "Psycho Predictions", his third installment of solo percussion music under the name Congs for Brums. I've caught a couple of Ches' solo shows, and the evolution of his music is pretty remarkable. Ches' drum set is situated in a kind of triangle with a vibraphone and Moog synthesizer and other electronics. A lot of the compositions are based around loops played on the synth, and then elaborated or deconstructed on the vibes or drums. The variety of textures was excellent, with the sometimes harsh electronic sounds side by side with the glowing resonance of the vibes. The set concluded with Ches pummeling the drum set, but not in the "drum solo" way that you might expect in a solo drum performance. It was more of a concentrated, groove-based explosion. I felt like Ches' compositional ideas were equally important as his always incredible drumming.

Then last night I saw Jason Nazary's CD release performance for his solo project, So Ghost. Jason mics his drums and runs the signal through his computer where he can control effects and loops. The music has an improvisational feel, but at the same time I was aware of a planned progression through different sound worlds. At times there was an incredibly dense layering of sounds, with the loops transfigured by effects or played at different speeds the music began to resemble some kind of alien tribal drum ensemble.
One similarity to Ches' show was that there was a long buildup to any kind of traditional drum set playing. But when Jason finally played the whole kit at the end of the set, the effect was revelatory. Like at Ches' show, it was also a groove-based explosion rather than a "drum solo", with a wall of sound blaring from the electronics. Totally gripping.
Another cool feature of Jason's set was a projection of a kind of sine wave graphic that responded to the sounds. The image was projected on Jason's white shirt, which was pretty cool to watch in a dark room. I tried to capture a little bit on my camera.

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