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Published: 2006/11/19
by Pat Buzby

Amid the Noise – So Percussion

Canteloupe Records 21039
A first step in the breakdown of classical/popular barriers came in the late ’60s, when composers (principally the early minimalists) began having their ensembles perform in the same venues as rock groups. A second step came in the ’80s, when ensembles (principally the Kronos Quartet) began taking on images similar to those of rock groups.
So Percussion has established their intent to take a third step. Their first two releases interpreted other composers works (with the second, a recording of Steve Reichs first-step landmark Drumming, using multitracking to let this three-piece unit handle a piece designed for Reichs larger groups). However, with Amid the Noise, they have become one of the few classical ensembles to jump from interpretation to presenting their own works.
Of course, the other aspect of the breakdown not mentioned above is the contribution of popular composers. Many people have combined Cage and Stockhausen notions with more concise, beat-driven formats than those composers would have chosen, and they have taken the music to dance clubs rather than conservatory stages. The music of Amid the Noise, composed by Jason Treuting and recorded and mixed by Lawson White, is in a similar vein, suggesting that only this ensembles instrumentation and background would prompt calling this a classical disc.
Aside from that, there is the question of how good the music is. So Percussion has its ideas — the pensive chords, the buzzes and hums from its close-miked triangles and vibraphones, the handful of rapid drumbeats clattering around a slow-moving melody — and, on the best cuts here (Work Slow Life, Go, February) they combine them in arresting ways. These ideas, though, are rather similar to those of fellow explorers such as Aphex Twin, Brian Eno and Tortoise. So Percussion show themselves to be able to keep pace with their role models, but they have not surpassed them.
In the end, Amid the Noise, recorded over four years during the same time frame as the previous two So Percussion CDs, comes off as a well-crafted student work. These three offerings, served up in quick succession, suggest that this skilled ensemble is honing its skills for a greater future leap.

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