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A Percussionist’s Songbook

Joby Burgess (percussion) (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

A Percussionist’s Songbook
Works by Graham Fitkin, Dario Marianelli, John Metcalfe, Gabriel Prokofiev, Dobrinka Tabakova et al
Joby Burgess (percussion)
Signum Classics SIGCD722   49:42 mins

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Combining a multi-genre passion for contemporary western music with explorations of ancient global traditions, Joby Burgess has done much to foster the art of percussion. For this highly personal solo album, he’s drawn on his 1980s youth, when the ‘narrative … hook… [and] emotion’ of pop song drove it as ‘perfect short form music’ to the fore of his eclectic loves.

The ‘songs without words’ duly commissioned honour those roots while being stylistically wide-ranging, showcasing seven composers with whom Burgess has formed close relationships. Each has been inspired by some kind of text, and many use electronics with creative flair. John Metcalfe’s Love Without Hope riffs on Graves’s gentle yearning with lopsided post-minimal patterns, while Dario Marianelli takes the Unequal into socio-political realms, alternating wrong-note layers with chopped up recordings of philosopher Michael Sandel. More topical still, Graham Fitkin’s Species addresses population growth with UN statistics chillingly delivered via vocoder alongside boppy rhythms turned queasily threatening. In its light, the lush Sahara of ages past melodically summoned by Dobrinka Tabakova’s Desert Swimmers seems distant indeed.

Saudi folk tale meets funky electronica in Yazz Ahmed’s wonderfully witty Throw Your Pumpkin (& Pick Me Up), while echoes of communal singing combine evocatively with glassy West African gongs and more in Tunde Jegede’s The Ancestors Are Within. From another, glitchy ominous future in Dr Calvin Remembers – Gabriel Prokofiev’s brilliant take on Asimov – Burgess’s own Come Sweet Death and Take Me Home return us to more comforting personal memories and childhood.

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Steph Power