Unknown Public

By Anja Büchele, 10 May 2002

Unknown Public, a series of individually edited compilation CDs, distributed via subscription-only mail order, is a beautifully simple project. Nimbly traversing musical categories UP has so far produced 12 CD’s each with a different theme: Beauty and Terror, Naked, All Seeing Ear... Selecting and gathering together hard-to-find and obscure pieces of music in a brown cardboard box, UP is designed with an incredible love for detail – an object worth ‘having’, contre le Napster.

UP12, Talking Drums has been edited by Paul Clarvis, a percussionist well known for his work with Leonard Bernstein, Harrison Birtwistle and many others. In the editorial poster he states that ‘a drummers voice comes from being immersed in the music: hearing the music as a whole.’ Therefore his selection is not merely rhythmic in focus, rather percussion is perceived as part of the melody. Many of the tracks only reveal the true force of their rhythmic element after repeated listening – the subtler, the more sublime (the Tiny Bell Trio, for example).

The listener is schmoozed into this selection with Moondog’s ‘Viking l’, a childishly innocent, yet amazingly to-the-point piece radiating the usual Moondog-charm. This is followed by Larry Stabbins’ and Oktal’s collaboration on a foot-tapping drum&bass/free jazz amalgamation, leading the listener towards the more difficult pieces on the CD. Brian Ferneyhough’s ‘Bone Alphabet’ (here performed by Steven Schick), for example, is at once intensely sparse and very complex - a soulful piece.

Talking Drums runs the gamut from new classical to modern jazz, free improvisation to pop. The most memorable pieces are the Tiny Bell Trio playing Kurt Weill’s ‘Drowned Girl’ (the percussion breathing the girl’s disappearing life, the trumpet singing her soul), Steve Argüelles’ ‘La La La’ (so much attitude!), and Tenko & Ikue Mori’s ‘Death Mask - possibly the most outstanding piece with its haunting vocals and the percussion’s ghostworldly brittleness.

Anja Büchele <anja AT> is 1/4th of the Surp!u$, 1/5th of Mechnaical Beetles, Never Quite Warm, and fully looking for work

Talking Drums // Unknown Public // ed. Paul Clarvis Full track list and subscription details []