A "mobile" is a sculpture containing freely mobile elements; the art lies not just in the piece itself, but it the different shadows that it throws, as it moved by gentle air currents. In other word, the whole is the sum of what is there and what is not there. That's a pretty good metaphor for what drummer Glenn Kotche does on this CD. Kotche is interested in what are referred to as "negative rhythms." In other words, if one takes the rhythmic pattern beat/rest/rest/beat, its negative is rest/beat/beat/rest. "Mobile" also refers to taking one element and moving it from place to place. One "mobile" element on this CD is a fragment from the Kecak, or Balinese Monkey Chant. This fragment appears in different incarnations on Mobile. Kotche also has an affinity for the work of Steve Reich – specifically, for Reich's techniques of developing material by adding or subtracting notes from it as it is repeated. In fact, "Clapping Music Variations," the first track on this CD, is a direct allusion to Reich.
Kotche is the drummer for Wilco, an art rock band also signed to Nonesuch. The stereotype in rock is that it is the drummer who is the bashing dunderhead, but rock music has its share of drummers who are fine musicians and really cerebral people. Kotche clearly is one of these. He's been inspired by a wide variety of styles, from Reich and Kecak to jazz and African thumb piano music, and has created something very unusual out of them in Mobile. This is an album which should appeal to a wide audience, from Wilco's regular fans to classical collectors who enjoy minimalism or a good percussion CD. There are eight tracks here, and they range from the gentle (the closing "Fantasy on a Shona Theme") to the bracingly abrasive ("Projections of (What) Might…"). The most extended track (11:29) is Kotche's reinterpretation of a complete Kecak performance, with different percussion instruments or effects taking on the different characters. This is an impressive tour de force, and while I prefer to hear the Kecak done as a vocal piece – in the field, as it were – there's no denying that what Kotche has done here is very clever. And, as far as I can tell, Kotche plays every instrument on this CD.
Mobile will give both your ears and your speakers a workout. If you have teenagers, it may increase your "cool" quotient with them, and if you are a teenager yourself, then here's an example of what a real musician sounds like.
Copyright © 2006, Raymond Tuttle