Strike: Sketches (Strike)

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Strike: Hydrophonics
Strike: Sketches (Strike)

Don't know about you, but just out of curiosity I'd listen to a piece of music which featured "water nipple gong".

That particular instrument -- and I'm not going to ask further -- is but one in the battery of percussion played by the New Zealand ensemble Strike: water vibes, spoons, PVC pipes, various bowls and flower pots (in the manner of Stephan Micus), plastic tubs and brake drums, a car panel, cowbells, gongs and . . .

Not just your standard drum ensemble obviously.

To be honest I can weary very quickly of a drum solo ("impressive, but can you tell a story?") however this outfit kicks things up a few notches in terms of musicality (yes, they "tell" stories as it were) and the nine pieces here keep your attention the whole way.

Of course you can guess this might be music to see as much as anything (in the manner of Stomp etc) but as with From Scratch, this works pretty darn well as just a listening experience. Some of it is pure caffeine on CD. You won't nod off, believe me.

A couple of pieces are written by Gareth Farr -- the Polynesia-influenced Little Sea Gongs and the light industrial Pukul -- but the rest come from the seven-piece collective and include the doom-laden Drums of Hell (thunder sheets, steel plates, massive bass etc) which was commissioned for the Lord of the Rings: Two Towers premiere party at Te Papa.

Elements of Polynesian drumming are clearly here, but equally so are influences from Indonesian gamelan (the delightfully hypnotic Water Sketches) and South East Asia (woodblocks, the water gongs and such in Hydrophonics which brings to mind a rather more thumping take on some elements of Jon Hassell's Dream Theory in Malaya).

With everything here recorded (nearly) in just one take, there is an immediacy to this and also a cleverly worked out long arc through various moods and styles.

A whole album of percussion is really not my thing, but because this is so melodic (outside of its rhythmic aspects) I have found it alarmingly addictive.

And I tell you what: when some of those faster pieces kicked in I was typing way faster than I usually do. Then I'd have stop and think . . . water nipple gong? 

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