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Reich: Drumming

Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals (Colin Currie Records)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Reich Drumming
Colin Currie Group; Synergy Vocals
Colin Currie Records CCR 0001 55:09 mins

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What gives Drumming (1970- 71) its hypnotic allure is a sense of toppling jeopardy: its strict patterns liquefy and reform when one drummer accelerates, creating a new norm. Steve Reich corralled a West African tradition to write the piece. What he lost in spontaneity, he gained in enlarging his field into pitched notes, and then, with voices, further amplified the resulting acoustic effects. As he has himself said, what began as a percussion work released another aspect of Reich, the vocal composer.

Though Drumming is elastic in performance, this recording at 55 minutes is almost the same length as that made by Steve Reich and Musicians in 1987 (Nonesuch). Compared to that, the Colin Currie Group’s version is highly immediate and resonant, the bongos ‘singing’ more clearly from the first part, delivering the intriguing inner music that runs below the blistering percussive attacks. What it misses in relaxed flexibility it more than makes up for in textural variety and range of dynamics: there’s hushed delicacy in Part 2, Synergy Vocals entering with exquisite subtlety on the back of tender marimbas; the work rises gradually into tingling radiance with the glocks, whistling and piccolo in Part 3, culminating, in Part 4, in a noisy, jangling mix of drums and tuned instruments that transports us from Ghana to Bali. Colin Currie Group’s own recording, honed through long performance practice, brings you into a magic circle where every impact is precisely heard, every overtone burnished.

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Helen Wallace