There’s very little to say about this album, other than your ears are about to get audited. “Drumgasm” is the debut album from the instrumental percussion supergroup consisting of Janet Weiss (formerly from Sleater-Kinney, now drummer for Wild Flag), Matt Cameron (of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden) and Zach Hill (of Hella, Marnie Stern and, importantly, Death Grips). All three drummers are known for a brash, edgier, sound – Hill especially – so there was already going to be an intense factor to this album. What makes it all the more intense and ear-busting, though, is it’s total improvisation. The three drummers are heard at the beginning of the album chatting, trying to figure out a plan before they decide to just start playing and see what happens. Their voices aren’t heard again until after they finish, as they congratulate each other.
The album consists of just two tracks, both called “Drumgasm.” Both songs hover almost exactly around twenty minutes, and focus more on skill and intensity, rarely finding a groove or constant beat. There are extended moments where one drummer is featured more prominently than the other two, and although it’s impossible to determine who it is, it’s not unwise to assume it’s Hill, based purely on speed and intensity.
This album excels best as a concept – a truly improvised duo of brash drum pieces without names. If percussion interests you at all (as it does to me), then this album is like a undeserved present. There are call-and-response moments, there are moments where the three work together to berate the volume of your speakers, and there are moments where they fall out of line with each other and it sounds messy. It’s got mistakes and miscues. Of course it does, it’s improvised, and although those missteps aren’t appealing, they further build the concept. The album’s only real fault, a “fault” that shouldn’t be blamed on the musicians, and the same one that could be attributed to most jazz, is that listening is a commitment. There are no breaks, and although the listener gets sucked in, it is immediately lost when either track is paused (I streamed the album via Pitchfork Advance, and my internet connection was lost 15 minutes into the first track). This is a really original album, and it’s execution is nearly perfect. It is loud and abrasive, musically interesting, yet it is ultimately three people having fun and messing around in the studio, and I recommend it as both a fun, and a sonically complex and challenging listen. Somehow.
-By Andrew McNally