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Tag Archives: Ted Zancha

You hit it, I’ll stand by and admire.

Drumming. Is there anything more impressive than seeing someone play a ridiculous drum beat that leaves you gaping moronically and seething with jealousy? Guitar solos are obviously wondrous and arguably more expressive, but they are ten a penny. When a drum solo provoking absolute incredulity is witnessed (granted it is performed in small doses with instrumental breaks), a crowd reaction is usually much more exuberant. People will lose their shit at the sight of it; a person of supreme rhythmic abilities is usually a showstopper. I vividly remember, from the days in my teenage band, Beaver, how the Guernsey youth (and elders) would all marvel at our prodigal drummer, Spud, beautifully flailing his limbs as he soloed during a cover of Wipeout.

billy-cobhamSo, to the purpose of this blog:  I have the utmost admiration for drummers, keeping a group of musicians together with impeccable timing and inventive rhythms. Putting the party piece solos to one side, it is the seemingly endless variation of beats, the tonal quality captured on record or live, the ability to completely turn a chord sequence or melody on its head, the movement it provokes from your body. I put down my adulation down to two factors:

  1. I don’t have a natural affinity with numbers. Mathematics causes me stress; my brain fizzles out with a defeated whimper when presented with a numerical calculation of any sort. Transposed into musical abilities, it means that rhythmic dictation has always been a complete pain in the arse for me. It quite literally does not compute. And yes, I’m aware that it is essentially just counting, but I’d be grateful if you could stifle your sniggers more quietly please.
  2. I’ve tried playing drums and it’s bloody difficult. How often in your life do you perform a daily task which potentially requires the use of both arms and legs, moving at different times and speeds? Why is the control of one’s limbs so tough?

With all of this in mind, I will now highlight a few songs where the drums sing to me for different reasons.

If you aren’t already acquainted with the genuinely insane abilities of our man in the picture above, Mr. Billy Cobham, then now is the time to break that duck (lord knows how you’ve been all trying). Ever since I was a young’un, I have never truly gotten my head around the intro to the great Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Vital Transformation; it’s where my terrible counting skills fully come to light. Anyhow, The Inner Mounting Flame is a masterclass in drumming; an astonishing tour de force of musical reverie.

A band I religiously listened to in my university days, RX Bandits boast a top notch drummer. And with Tainted Wheat, found on their album …And The Battle Begun, we find a man at the top of his game. Swerving between high energy technicality (the entire intro essentially, with particular attention to the bass drum work between 0.12-0.15), a juicy hip hop-esque beat (0.23 onward) and rolling snippets (1.05-1.06 of the chorus), the recording of his kit on this album is, for want of a better word, fat. The cheesiness of the American vocals may be grating at times, but look past it if necessary for the excellent thumping.

First and foremost, Dave Grohl is a drummer. And with his contribution to Queens Of The Stone Age’s deservedly vaunted album Songs For The Deaf, he gave, in my humble opinion, one of the finest drumming performances ever for a studio recording. I’m getting excited just writing this! This album sounds MASSIVE, largely in part to how extraordinarily well the drums have been captured. And when you’ve found the secret formula to bringing down monumental structures with your recording techniques, you should probably bring in a drummer with awesome talent to bash the absolute crap out of the kit. I don’t need too tell you how great this album is, nor is it a surprise as to which track Monsieur Grohl shines like a blinding ball of fire, but if you’ve been living in a windowless room with no contact with the outside world for the past twenty years, then absorb the beauty of this spectacle immediately. Duh duh de duh duh duh at 3.45; at 5.31, you may orgasm.

Don’t forget the excellent live version from the 2002 Glastonbury Festival, which my friend Jack unfathomably slept through while laying on the grass.

For some reason, this beat always sticks in my mind. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

I devoted an entire post to this Chicago group way back when, but it would be criminal for me not to mention Maps & Atlases when it comes to drummers. Just listen to 1.24-1.51 of Ted Zancha and hopefully you’ll see why I couldn’t leave this out.

To sign off, I’m going to super controversially leave you with music that most of the general population would abhor, but what do they know? Dan Foord, drummer of SikTH, does not operate on the same plateau as most mere mortals. His limbs know no bounds, his mind unlimited in what beats he can conjure, his double bass drum skills particularly phenomenal. For those that cannot stand to sit through this normally, I ask that you simply hone in on the astounding drumming.

Firstly, 2.51 until 3.30 of the Let The Transmitting Begin version of Hold My Finger.  The slowing of the snare and kick drum, followed by a subtle cymbal hit at 3.05-3.08; the return to a driving beat at 3.12; the lightning quick double bass blast at 3.16-17; the spine tingling roll of the kit between 3.20 and 3.22. It instills a sense of joy in me which I can’t fully define.

Secondly, Scent of The Obscene. Check the intro (up until 1.19) and then the glorious ending (3.57 onward). For a slower pacing, the middle section (1.51 to 3.25) demonstrates the breadth of talent on show here. Pretty sweet production too I might add.

Enjoy!

As a bonus passing note: A band frequently cited throughout my previous blogs, Battles have amongst their ranks a drummer who is almost certainly a human metronome. John Stanier’s playing is completely on point and devilishly accomplished, therefore I would always heartily suggest wrapping one’s ears around first album Mirrored for drumming bliss and the punchiest of bass drums. To my untrained ears, the beats seem so perfectly knitted to the other instruments that they could be programmed in for complete matching. Watching this man perform on a stage is one of life’s small pleasures.

 

 

 

 

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Music needs more plastic woodblocks

I love the drums. Being an avid guitarist whose grasp of rhythmic syncopation is basic at best, I am always in awe of how drummers manage to persuade their limbs to perform completely different functions at once, producing either the most complex or simplistically fitting of beats. There is also the way in which drums are captured on an album which, in my eyes, is arguably the most essential tonal quality of a record (not including vocals). Songs For The Deaf is one of my favourite drum albums of all time, because of the HUGE sound that Dave Grohl produces, especially on the bass drum, and the perfect playing that accompanies each song. Would this album sound half as good if the kick drum had played a smaller part in the sound, or if the drums did not pleasingly reverberate in your head?

One such band who possess a drummer that one can only marvel at is Chicago’s Maps & Atlases. In addition to having a magician behind the kit, they have matured through their four releases in a manner befitting of adept musicians. This is far more likeable than say, for example, the way Biffy Clyro have matured from Infinity Land (genius) to Only Revolutions (abomination). Having said that, the back catalogue that Maps & Atlases have produced is stronger than their most recent release Beware And Be Grateful (2012), but it still offers more to grab hold of than other bands.

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I first discovered Maps & Atlases back in 2010, and had the privilege of seeing them at SXSW in 2011. I’ve only just found out that I missed them on a European tour they did this month, and it hurts bad, dear Lord.

First up – Tree, Swallows, Houses.

First EP

First EP

Released in 2007, this gem of an EP is chock full of ideas mashed together to produce a coherent introduction to the band. It showcases their musical prowess and is a release of accessible madness, treading the fine line between genres that blurs pop and math rock together. God knows how many people I’ve posted this song to, but Stories About Ourselves is exciting, frenetic and catchy. The detail involved is hugely rewarding with each listen: the instantly punchy kick drum/snare intro at 0.04 to 0.07; the intricate open string pull offs from 0.26; the disco indie beat from 0.42; the all out chaos at 1.17 to 1.24; the drum work from 1.39 to 1.48; the hand claps at 2.05; the xylophone at 2.34.

Other EP highlights include The Most Trustworthy Tin Cans, with its tapped bass line forming the basis of a dissonant jaunt, and Big Bopper Anthems, a perpetually rolling stop start pop waltz.

youandme

Released in 2008, mini EP You And Me And The Mountain followed the first release and portrays similar traits of the songwriting style used in Tree, Swallows, Houses. However, the production is notably slicker and warmer, with Dave Davsion’s distinct vocals coming to the forefront. The guitar and bass work is also more reserved, following the vocal melodies closely, and represents a shift toward making music that is more radio friendly. Once again though, the drumming retains its variant brilliance and is astonishing on this record.

There is not a single bad tune to be found, and each has their own unique nuances. Witch is a dark and fuzzy folk tune, whilst Daily News is an initially slow burning, hazy groove that crescendos intensely before dropping away again. The title track is a clear highlight, alternating between plastic woodblock inspired passages and straight up indie.

Also taken from You And Me And The Mountain, this live performance of Ted Zancha clearly displays the abundance of talent the band possess, none more so than drummer Chris Hainey. An interesting tale of a World War II veteran who leaves behind photographs of the stars of yesteryears, the song itself is a well structured slab of alternative rock with typical use of guitar tapping and developed bass playing. Stealing the show is the drumming however, which never fails to leave me wide eyed upon watching this video. From 1.30 to 2.20, and 3.01 to 3.15, it is nothing short of spectacular.

And so to the two full albums that have been released: 2010’s Perch Patchwork and 2012’s Beware And Be Grateful.

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Mixed reviews have met these two records, with lack of direction and cohesion central to given criticism. Certainly if you are a fan of the earlier math pop mentalness, much like myself, then the two albums are a significant shift in pace. But, while the group have evolved in their songwriting style, they still retain their originality and roots. There is no change to try and write stadium hits which usually consist of boring, middle of the road anthems (with the exception of Vampires perhaps).

Perch Patchwork is the stronger of the two albums. A curious mix of droning melodies, world music influences and their signature elaborate rhythms, the album is much lighter and folk influenced with a broad range of effects, instruments and vocal harmonies. Highlights include Will, Living Decorations, Pigeon and Carrying The Wet Wood. Banished Be Cavalier is also taken from the album.

Beware And Be Grateful is altogether more hit and miss. It took a good few listens to scratch the surface, and has a couple of dire tracks, but is still a decent listen once imprinted upon your mind. The world music influences are scattered throughout, such as Old Ash, leading to comparisons with bands such as Vampire Weekend. Be Three Years Old is a nod to the ‘old days’ style of writing, whilst Winter canters along with some interesting ideas. The album highlight for me is the opening track Old & Grey, which moves through a patient build up before settling on a motif of layered vocals and electronic noises.

Dave Davison’s voice is the at the centre of Beware And Be Grateful’s focus, and this is no bad thing, but the music takes a hit somewhat in pursuing vocal and sampling cleverness over raw instrumentation. It will be interesting to see where Maps & Atlases go from here, but I do hope that the fantastic drumming comes back to the fore. And yes, I am selfish like that. Drums rule.