The Zen of Percussion
Sometimes, music really does speak for itself and leaves little else for discussion. This presents an issue– not a problem per se– when it comes to writing about the album, but one must give it a shot anyway, yes? So to begin, let’s put all the elements in the forefront. Ryonen is a collaborative effort between two highly respected entities: Man Forever, a New York based project that is spearheaded by percussionist John Colpitts (who also goes by the name Kid Millions) and So Percussion, an ensemble unit of percussionists out of Brooklyn. Ryonen is a work comprised of two pieces, “The Clear Realization” and the title track.
Introducing the album is what sounds like a garbage truck downshifting in the Andes mountains, before the “Realization” kicks in, with alternating rhythm patterns, at times both playful and aggressive. It’s hard to truly untangle all the different strands of what rhythm is coming from where in the sonic space, but therein lies the beauty. A slow airy vocal line hangs over the proceedings while the percussion races and rambles along underneath it. The vocals are more mantra-like that dispensing with any intended melody, but that obviously ties in with the underlying Eastern themes both musically and narrative-wise (The name “Ryonen” is in reference to a Buddhist nun from the 18th century.)
Speaking of the second and title track, “Ryonen” starts with a unrelenting eight minutes of thunderous percussion loops before it breaks like Can’s “Oh Yeah” into a overwhelming cloud of debris. Then, it introducs a manic torrent of clattering patterns that cascade and collide with and around each other. Aided again by another airy vocal line, the track and album rides out into the mist with this expertly tensed display of percussion before seeing the listener off with an authoritative gong hit.
For better or for worse, words can only do music of this nature so much justice. Thrilling at some points, and uncompromisingly brutal at others, this collaboration will be quite unlike anything you will likely hear in popular music. And for that alone, it demands an certain kind of respect.