Album Reviews

Glenn Kotche – Mobile

(Nonesuch) UK release date: 6 March 2006

Anyone struck by Wilco‘s transformation over the last decade from alt-country stalwarts to sonic pioneers might put it down to the fluctuating state of Jeff Tweedy’s mind. However, of equal importance to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born’s textures and oddities is drummer Glenn Kotche, who joined the band in 2001 to make those two albums.

Kotche, also one third of rock trio Loose Fur, has produced a third solo album that is an orgy of rhythm, metre, tempo and throbbing beats. The man himself says of it: “Throughout the record I investigate the idea of negative or opposite rhythm by utilising the intrinsic spaces – or rests – of rhythms. Many of these songs were shaped from a few simple ingredients and then used in varying forms and different contexts, each time creating something new, yet homogeneous.”

Anyone who understands what this means, let us know. It seems these words overcomplicate what is actually a very child-like album. It evokes the primitive spirit of a child confronted with spectrums of sound for the first time and exploring the endless fun to be had with rhythm.

It is tempting to use critic-speak such as ‘soundscape’ or ‘collage’, but that might suggest we are dealing with a highly experimental work here. While it is certainly avant-garde in comparison to the James Blunts, Arctic Monkeyss and even Wilcos of this world, this is actually music at its most aboriginal. It’s as if we never evolved from thumping away on tribal drums.

The most extraordinary example of this is Monkey Chant, a vista (here we go with that cursed lingo) of noises that sound like household implements being played by a jungle heathen. Yet there is technical percussive skill that John Bonham would have been proud of. To boot, chirping crickets and gorillas are mimicked, resulting in a track you wouldn’t want to be listening to on the wrong side of a few special cigarettes.

Mercifully, Mobile is not entirely a-melodic – it is of heart and of head at the same time. Clapping Music Variations utilises that most underused of instruments, the vibraphone, while Mobile Parts 1 & 2 and Reductions Or Imitations exhibit some hypnotic, if simple, piano phrasings.

Being kind, a musical reference point would be label-mate Steve Reich. Kotche fits neatly into the minimalist school of recording to the extent that fans of Reich or even Philip Glass may wish to investigate this awesome example of harmonic stasis. To be unkind, I guess you could compare it with Mike Oldfield. But that is very unkind. So we won’t.

There are very few albums being made quite like this, so do partake. It is the record Ringo should have made. Or perhaps not.

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