Rhythm and music; novel percussionists?
May 30, 2008 8:43 AM   Subscribe

MusicRecommendFilter: Can someone recommend artists who use percussion or drums in novel ways? See inside...

I have a strong rhythm-orientation to music, and I find it hard to discover artists who are likewise driven creatively.

I'd probably disregard most artists who use electronic drum kits (typical DJ stuff doesn't have any allure for me) - I realize a lot of interesting things can be done with drums when they're manufactured like this, but it's not as interesting unless it's something like, say, Roam the Hello Clouds whose improvisational nature is geniunely interesting.

On the other hand, I also appreciate drums and rhythm as used in Battles' music. They're heavy on the math-rock, but they use it in a way that doesn't seem to get old, and it has such ferocity and passion that it feels less like math, and more like emotion.

I also really like what ex-drummer for Neutral Milk Hotel, Jeremy Barnes can do in A Hawk and a Hacksaw as a sort-of one man band, but this is probably the hardest to find similarities to, considering it's westernized gypsy folk rock.

Maybe I'm just looking for groups who are driven by the drummer and by the rhythm rather than by melody or lyrical structures. I'd like to see what anyone else can recommend along these lines. Any takers?
posted by tybeet to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The Dodos
posted by ludwig_van at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2008

Turing Machine
posted by fire&wings at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2008

The hallmark of indie music is bad drumming.

I'd say you'd hear much better drumming, and more rhythm-oriented music if you cast your net outside of indie and listen to krautrock, Afrobeat, hi-life, avant-metal, electronic music, disco, funk, RnB. That's what these genres are for.
posted by dydecker at 8:54 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's Meshuggah, if you're into hard ass metal. I suggest "New Millennium Cyanide Christ". The accompanying music video is truly awesome.

In a typical Meshuggah song, there are two separate rhythms present: a standard 4/4 meter and a completely different metrical subdivision played by the guitars. Often, drummer Tomas Haake plays two separate rhythms: a standard 4/4 beat with his hands while following the different metrical subdivision of the guitars with his feet. However, this is not the only arrangement used. Sometimes Haake's cymbals will follow the steady 4/4 while his snare goes with the bass drum/guitars. Other times his snare will stay with the steady 4/4 while his cymbals follow the bass drum/guitars. Sometimes, Haake follows the guitar parts entirely (cymbals, snare, and drum) and the listener is left to follow the beat on their own. All this together creates an awkward but pulsating rhythmic pattern that works as the basis of Meshuggah's songs. -Wiki

That sound like your kind of party?
posted by crunch buttsteak at 8:57 AM on May 30, 2008

Well outside of the obvious Mickey Hart references, the Stone Roses drummer Alan Wren was (is) a phenomenal drummer and much of their first eponymous album is based on his rhythms (as well as guitar). Also, the now long defunct band Big Pig was known for their percussion and drums.
posted by elendil71 at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2008

I've actually been listening to the Dodos after seeing them on PFM - they're interesting in a very Animal Collective kind of way. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, or that I'm very contemporary-centric but Stone Roses falls into a category of music that I can't ever seem to get into. Hard ass metal falls into another category. I don't know what it is about the drumming, but the drumpads that many of them use is a huge turnoff - you lose a sense of what they're doing naturally from talent, and what the pads are multiplying.

Planet Drum is something I'll have to check out (african rhythms are amazing). I forgot to mention that the kind of stuff Steve Reich does with drums is amazing, as well, timsteil is on the right track, I'm definitely looking for some kind of polyrhythm based music too.
posted by tybeet at 9:19 AM on May 30, 2008

dydecker: that's an awesome video, but you know who trumps that?
posted by tybeet at 9:23 AM on May 30, 2008

The Bad Plus's drummer Dave King will use pretty much anything you can hit with a stick as an instrument. Of special note is his incorporation of a Fisher Price Happy Apple into his kit. (It's also his other band's name!)

Related, when I saw them last, Meat Beat Manifesto had a drum off between their live drummer and various recorded drummers including Buddy Rich and Animal.
posted by mkb at 9:35 AM on May 30, 2008

For metal, I'd recommend Mastodon - the drumming is fantastically rich and primal, convoluted and driving at the same time. Delicious! For interesting avant-industrial-whatever, Einstürzende Neubauten is a way to go... they tend to build a lot of their own percussion apparatus to fit the needs. There was a song they did that sounded like it had a xylophone being played at quadruple speed, until I saw it live - it was a full-on jet turbine with the case stripped off, and they were playing on the exposed rotating blades.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:46 AM on May 30, 2008

I saw Chris Cutler perform once, and it changed the way I thought about drumming--it was like watching a waterfall.

Also, check out Ruins.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 9:47 AM on May 30, 2008

Anything that Steve Schick touches turns to gold.

For example, Xenakis.
posted by billtron at 10:01 AM on May 30, 2008

I'm looking through the Ruins videos now. Do you know how he gets the synth/keys to mix with the drums? It's pretty neat.

billtron: those are awesome!
posted by tybeet at 10:06 AM on May 30, 2008

AMM's Eddie Prévost has an amazing way with his kit. I also like George Hurley of the Minutemen and Robbie Yeats of New Zealand's Dead C.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:16 AM on May 30, 2008

I'll strongly second Meshuggah--they're basically all rhythm and polyrhthmic effects, after having left melody left in a kicked and broken heap in some corner somewhere. But very definitely an acquired taste even for many folks who are metalheads to start with.

Non-metal, I get a big kick out of Man Man, who are...difficult to describe. Eclectic multi-instrument sound, but most songs are driven more on a piano center rather than guitars and such. A lot of percussion, including junkyard percussion--smacking pots and pans around and whatnot--horns getting mixed in, etc. The effect is sometimes a kind of demented marching tune.
posted by Drastic at 10:19 AM on May 30, 2008

tybeet: if you like Ruins, check out the inspiration: Magma
posted by dydecker at 10:21 AM on May 30, 2008

Also: Ruins side band Koenji Hyakkai
posted by dydecker at 10:25 AM on May 30, 2008

Electronic, but very interesting... Squarepusher.
posted by rooftop secrets at 10:29 AM on May 30, 2008

Lightning Bolt
posted by safetyfork at 10:48 AM on May 30, 2008

Two words for you: Math Rock.

Head on over to Epitonic and see what they have to offer. AllMusic is also a good place to start.

As far as bands, I'm surprised someone hasn't said Tool yet. You should go check them out, especially beyond what's played on the radio.
posted by theichibun at 10:53 AM on May 30, 2008

!Tchkung! from Seattle were a stunning live show that centered around rhythm. I think they disolved into Infernal Noise Brigade, but I'm not positive about that (and a bit to lazy today to google it for you).

Polvo are an 'indy' band from Chapel Hill, NC, who have a completely fresh take on rhythm and timing of a song. Worth checking out, even if only for the novelty of it (I love them, though. They broke up, too [ToT] ).

Should I bother mentioning Tortoise? Or Gamelan music? Probably not.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:13 AM on May 30, 2008

there's always jazz - check out one of the masters: Max Roach
(his Drums Unlimited has some fantastic solo pieces)

here's some videos

don't miss his percussion ensemble project: M'Boom
posted by jammy at 11:20 AM on May 30, 2008

Yep, Tool has gone way poly-rhythmic with their last two albums. Here's an example, gets interesting at the 5min mark: Tool --Lateralus
posted by LordSludge at 11:24 AM on May 30, 2008

On the funk side, look into D.C Go-Go music. The entire genre is based around a particular beat, and features lots of polyrhythms and drum breakdowns. Some classics:

Trouble Funk, Pump Me Up.
Trouble Funk, Drop the Bomb.
Experience Unlimited, live, Part 1, Part 2.
Rare Essence, live.
Junkyard Band, various.
posted by googly at 11:28 AM on May 30, 2008

I'm not really into them (him), but Nine Inch Nails seem to get pretty creative with the percussion. And thirding Tool and Meshuggah.
posted by Who_Am_I at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2008

Going a slightly different route: guitar as a means of producing percussive music. Kaki King is pretty incredible. Again, it's not drums, but some of her rhythms are pretty sick.
posted by Osrinith at 11:41 AM on May 30, 2008

you know who else got sick rhythm? Zakir Hussain, one of the best tabla players ever

he did some interesting stuff with Trilok Gurtu (another mad percussionist you should check out) & Bill Laswell when they played together as Tabla Beat Science
posted by jammy at 12:21 PM on May 30, 2008

I was going to recommend Steve Reich.

Should I bother mentioning Tortoise?
I'll mention Tortoise, although they sometimes use electronics and they're not always percussion heavy. Here's another clip, and an mp3 sample. Their drummer John McEntire also plays in The Sea and Cake, and they have a few drum-heavy tunes.

Dub/funk/post-rock/etc.: The Eternals

Icelandic kitchen-sink pop group Múm.

Free jazz: Paal Nilssen-Love, Michael Zerang
posted by hydrophonic at 12:27 PM on May 30, 2008

The latest Planet X album is pretty much the "Virgil Donati Show", very drum/percussion-oriented. Example: Planet X -- Quantum Factor

And Virgil is... an ALIEN...
posted by LordSludge at 12:28 PM on May 30, 2008

dydecker: that's an awesome video, but you know who trumps that?

I'll see your trump & raise you a duo
posted by jammy at 12:42 PM on May 30, 2008

Do you know how he gets the synth/keys to mix with the drums?

From what I can tell, he is playing along with a recording. And memorized everything because, well, he's that good.

Oh, and I should recommend Susie Ibarra, too!
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 12:44 PM on May 30, 2008

Somewhat electronic, but way, way, way not "typical DJ stuff": Thomas Strønen - Pohlitz
posted by juv3nal at 12:49 PM on May 30, 2008

Liars (esp They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and Drum's Not Dead).

The Knife, maybe? and I assume M.I.A. is too obvious :)

cosign on go-go. new from DC w/some go-go beats.. Wale - Mixtape about Nothing

older - Public Image Limited Flowers of Romance
posted by citron at 1:16 PM on May 30, 2008

The drummer for Guster, Brian Rosenworcel, plays the drums with his hands. Their music is very percussion heavy and he is amazing to watch.
posted by LightMayo at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2008

If you can't get into Stone Roses you might want to check out Happy Mondays. Drummer Gary Whelan is not acknowledged enough for the great beatsmith that he is. An example would be their early classic Wrote for Luck.

Another underrated drummer is Dave Rowntree of Blur, but their music is rarely beat-driven. Of course, the most strangely overlooked great drummer is Ringo Starr. The stuff he came up with, especially during the high psychedelic era, is simply amazing.
posted by Kattullus at 2:53 PM on May 30, 2008

I am a fan of Tom Waits, especially "Bone Machine", or "Real Gone" (especially the track Hoist That Rag for great percussion).
posted by self at 5:06 PM on May 30, 2008

The best percussionist I ever saw in person was Glen Velez.

More by Velez
posted by tdismukes at 3:08 AM on May 31, 2008

Percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Martin Dosh is the man you're looking for. His new album Wolves and Wishes just came out and it's pretty great.
posted by OutlawedYeomen at 6:47 AM on May 31, 2008

Thanks for all the recommendations. I'm just going to mention again some of the awesomeness in this thread I've found:

Tabla Beat Science
Trilok Gurtu
Paal Nilssen
Kaki King
Glen Valez
Thomas Strønen
posted by tybeet at 5:13 PM on May 31, 2008

Dosh plays keyboards/percussion for Andrew Bird, by the way.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:41 PM on May 31, 2008

Lozenge (direct link to live mp3).

I, too, was going to mention Dosh and direct you to this FPP I recently made about him.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:01 AM on June 1, 2008

Konono No. 1 lays down some pretty hypnotic and intense polyrhythms.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 6:07 AM on June 1, 2008

« Older Someone stole the payroll stubbs! What do we do?   |   The website got hacked. What now? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.