The (possibly) ultimate version of Drums And Drones – an ever-evolving project by ultrasensitive drummer Brian Chase – was released in 2018. It includes the three original albums published between 2013 and 2017, and a 144-page book that admirably details the genesis of the endeavour, the technical underpinnings behind every track, and the deeper meanings embedded in this sonic quest. The crucial element around which the latter revolves is just intonation, a tuning system that literally enlightened Chase while he was volunteering at La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s legendary Dream House back in 2004/2005. The fundamentals of just intonation are explained by Chase in the last part of the book for those who have heard of it, but don’t know how it works. The introduction, on the other hand, is a perfect summary of what the artist wants to convey.
Aural snapshots of tone
The sonic image, deconstructed.
isolated and exposed:
The individual as of the whole,
The whole as of the individual.
Let it be known that Drums And Drones does not comprise music for the casual listener, nor does it showcase inanimate virtuosity. Through endless hours of investigation gradually accumulating into years of experience, Chase has developed various methods for extracting the components of a drum’s resonance, enhancing it via specific equalization processes and electronics, sometimes altering the source manually (for example, by pushing the drum skin in order to bend the pitches). The results feature countless tone gradations, hidden and often unexpected patterns, subsonic booms, germs of throat-singing melody (minus the throat), bone-shaking oscillations, heavenly reverberations born, say, from a mere roll (case in point, “Crystal Drone”). All of the above, filtered by the ears and the brain, becomes the foundation for a different kind of profound connection. First with the instrument, then with the self, and finally with the dimension of atemporal awareness usually described by ridiculous “masters” in unintelligently dramaturgical terms that camouflage a desperate deficiency in this particular field. That is, a direct understanding of the impact of each frequency, including the apparently extraneous ones, on our perceptive apparata.
The approach to Drums And Drones must necessarily be immersive, not alternated with other types of material (or, worse, with human interference). Basically, if you can’t give it proper focus, it’s best to postpone the attempt. Regardless of the differences emerging from the individual tracks, we are faced with an all-encompassing entity that blends psychoacoustic issues with problems inherent in the ability – or lack thereof – to absorb a given vibrational cycle, whether in the form of continuous sound or repeated pattern, in turn generating resonant auras. It is important to remember that these are veritable compositions derived from extensive periods of experimentation in a studio, and not random improvisations. Chase’s scientific procedure – essentially meant to produce a “drone state of mind” (*) – is precisely what justifies the significance of the outcome, certainly deserving a mention among the modern milestones of full-bodied minimalism.
(*) In the words of the very La Monte Young, “…a drone state of mind, it provides a means toward achieving a state of meditation or an altered state of consciousness that can allow you to be more directly in touch with universal structure and a higher sense of order… The drone constants are very supportive and allow you to use them as positioning points of reference, to remain aloft, so to speak, in this special state of consciousness and awareness.”