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splendid > reviews > 1/14/2003
Six Drumsets
Six Drumsets
Simmer
Hourglass


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Glass Beads"

Buy me now
In theory, Simmer could have been one of the most exciting records of the year. The act is the brainchild of erstwhile Blue Man Group drummer Steve Wilkes, who also does time as a professor at Massachusetts' Berklee College of Music. As the name suggests, the eight-year-old act is made up of six drummers -- a recipe for absolute polyrhythmic madness and dynamic mayhem, right? It's gonna be like the second coming of all those great Gene Krupa drum battle records, where there are so many drum chops being shown off that people start losing limbs, right?

Wrong. Wilkes et al instead concentrate on making a more minimal, atmospheric record. There are no Blue Man Group-style pyrotechnics here. In fact, you have to actually turn the record up sometimes --in various parts of "Sacred Smoke", for instance -- to get a solid grip on the action. The zaniest playing on the album, time-signature-wise, is the lukewarm exploration of 7/4 time that opens the record in "In Seven". Parts of the album come off as instructional, as with the sixth minute of "Glass Beads", when a whole mess of cymbals gets a measured, steady workout. The vanilla beats in "Six Hop", which sounds like a marching band's drum corps going through its paces, are symptomatic of the problem Six Drumsets has getting its vision and energy across to listeners.

Almost all of the drums employed sound very traditional; electronics are completely ignored, and, as they traditionally aren't part of a drum kit, more "ethnic" percussion instruments (tabla, berimbau) weren't even invited to the party. However, despite the disappointing lack of dynamics, interplay and theatrics, the technique displayed throughout the record is flawless. While very few people will likely get down to it, drummers may find Simmer interesting.



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