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Thomas Strønen - Pohlitz (Rune Grammofon)

10 February 2006

This is the first solo release by THOMAS STRONEN, the founder/leader/drummer of the Norwegian/British band FOOD, though it’s the 30th album he’s been on—including releases by the HUMCRUSH duo, the MARIA KANNEGAARD Trio, and PARISH (a quartet co-led with superb Swedish jazz pianist BOBO STENSON). And solo really means solo. Everything on Pohlitz (released 1/24/06) was played and processed in real time, with no overdubs or pre-programming. The credits read simply, and humorously, “Thomas Strønen: beatable items, live electronic treatments, music”—but I’d put “music’” first, because while this is definitely a drummer’s album, it is a truly musical experience in which drumming is the means, not the end. No empty exhibition of technique or equipment, Pohlitz is emphatically not only of interest to drummers, and is

There’s considerable use of electronics, but the electronic aspect never dominates; some amazing grooves are constructed, but there’s usually melody amid the rhythm. This is not what most people would think of as an electronic album, dance or otherwise, but in many ways loops and ambient techno have prepared listeners to deal with music like Strønen’s. Then again, the track “Interacting Massive Particles” recalls parts of MORTON SUBOTNICK’s classic Silver Apples of the Moon, which certainly influenced the more intellectual end of the techno spectrum.

It’s impossible to listen to the vast array of clinking, clattering, shimmering, mostly metallic timbres (using no actual drums) that Strønen deploys without thinking of gamelan music, especially given the ecstatic momentum Strønen’s grooves achieve. To a degree one also is reminded of STEVE REICH’s brand of minimalism, especially in its period of sparse instrumentation (when Reich was influenced by world music, including gamelan), but Strønen’s pieces evolve more quickly and sometimes include the improvised bits that a solo performer can throw in, though most of these pieces seem composed in advance. In fact, if these pieces were orchestrated, they’d be just as good. I don’t know where I’m going to file this album in my collection, but I’m sure glad to have it.

 

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