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Drumming While Thinking (MP3)

A track from Québec City's Allumettes

There’s a particular sort of beat that suggests thinking — the process of thinking, in addition to the underlying sense that considerable thinking went into the beat in question in the first place. This beat comes in various forms. The syncopated work of Max Roach on Money Jungle comes to mind, as does, more recently, the extraordinary effort of Adrienne Davies as part of the slo-mo drone rock band Earth. And it isn’t merely acoustic, this beat. There are moments in the crashing-by-design latter-day-jungle of Aaron Spectre’s Drumcorp, and old Spring Heel Jack, and particular segments of Roni Size, not to mention Amon Tobin, that all smacks of foregrounded drumming, drumming that is pushing for the role that melody serves, not the melody of a lead singer, but the supportive melody of a lead guitar or a backing piano. In any case, about halfway through the mid-tempo electronica that is the track “Marty” by the Québec City duo Allumettes, such a beat arises. (Allumettes is the duo of arbee and stopmotion.) The percussion comes late to the track, after pulsing midnight synths and swelling tones. A full half minute passes before a pneumatic give-and-take beat kicks in. It continues in its steady pace for a time, a secondary beat upping the momentum a little. And then, just as the two-minute mark is nearing, the beat gains nuance, the rhythm given a swagger, a deliberation, it had previously lacked. It’s a brief figure, and soon enough the entire drumming section is gone. The piece is left to swelter and melt, to give way to a slowly declining denouement. But the drum has had its rupture, and it lingers in the memory as the track recedes.

“Marty” is the opening track of five that comprise the Noms Propres album by Allumettes. The full set is available for free download at allumettes.bandcamp.com. Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/allumettes.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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