I have a personal, internal ‘language’ that I mentally use to understand and categorize music. One of my ideas is about the “dynamic” of instruments– the thing that makes three bands playing guitar/bass/drums into rock, country, and jazz outfits. I’ve long been interested in groups that play with this dynamic is some new way, so I was pleased to hear The Transhumans “Into the Maelstrom,” recently released on the pfMentum label.
I’ll admit, there aren’t a lot of established dynamic structures for trios consisting of electronics and drums, but there are still many unexpected surprises. For me, the biggie was Bob Sterling’s drumming. With synth/sampler players Justin Cassidy and Patrick Rodriguez presenting a complex miasma of field recordings, liquid tones, and clatter; Sterling’s drums are surely left with little to propel. To my ears, it sounds as though Sterling rises above this, taking more of a leading role.
In lesser hands, this might be disasterous, but Sterling proves to be a drummer worthy of his surname. There’s a lot of jazz influence here, but it’s more of a jumping-off point, and certainly doesn’t reduce this simply. But enough about the drumming; I need to tell you about this disc.
It’s difficult to listen to, and I mean that in the most real way possible.
“Into the Maelstrom” does what very, very few albums manage to do, and that’s truly affect the listener. Sure, there are a huge number of releases that can make you dance or shed a couple tears– but how many can you actually say really made you tense, exhausted, or relieved to find pause? How many times have you ever realized you were holding your breath while listening? This is what it’s like to go into the maelstrom.
Either my basic humanity is very much suspect, or The Transhumans are onto something phenomenal with this release. In my opinion, the only thing working against it is the cover art, which completely fails to convey any sense of the incredible music within.