Published Oct 18, 2014The second night of this year's X-Avant festival brought one of its most exciting and innovative performances. Drums & Drones, the project of Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase and visual artist Ursula Scherrer, treated the audience at the Music Gallery to an immersive experience that sought to expand our understanding of common instruments.
Chase used a small setup of microphoned acoustic drums and a laptop to play and process simple tones and expand them into lush, complex drone compositions. He sat on the floor several rows into the audience in the darkened concert hall, an old church, while Scherrer's projections played over the front wall and altar. The combination was both moving and effective, forcing listeners to hear new tonal nuances in drums while staying thoroughly engaging and enjoyable.
The highlight of the performance was a pair of back to back pieces from their self-titled LP, called "Cymbal Drone" and "Snare Brush Drone," that complemented and contrasted one another. "Cymbal Drone" began with light, quiet, high-pitched cymbal taps and grew into what sounded like a chorus of bells. It jumped back and forth between frantic chaos and rich beauty as Chase changed the frequency and pitch of the looped sounds. Scherrer displayed fragmented accompanying images, falling somewhere between the snow of television static and colourful stained glass.
After a long silent pause, during which the audience could hear their their own breathing and movements, Chase began brushing his snare with his hand, creating elongated, lower tones that seemed to wipe away the last song. Starting more abrasively, he eventually used the pitches of the snare to virtually create a symphony before our eyes. It was an exciting movement that far transcended the simple medium.
Drums & Drones showed last night that they are more than a sonic experiment, but rather true players of a sonic part of drums that few people can hear. It was so enthralling that it was easy to forget how innovative they were.