Laurence Pike famously studied with jazz piano legend Mike Nock at Sydney's Conservatorium. The master and his apprentice then later worked together, both in concert and in the studio. But whilst the percussionist Pike may be shorn of his guru's input on this album, Nock's imprint is still tangible.
Distant Early Warning was conceived as a technological and spiritual jazz suite. Pike is the only performer, though this is not just an album for drummers to groove on. The use of a drum pad sampler allows Pike to conjure keyboard sounds and myriad sonic patterns. His inventive percussion works in tandem with machinery, not in detachment from it.
One glance at some track titles lets us know of Pike's concerns here: "Life Hacks," "Cyber Bully," "Corporate Memory," "Clouds And Wires." The unreal and virtual worlds we occupy seem to weigh heavily on his mind. Appropriate then that this album contains no human utterance. A comment, perhaps, on our absorbed selves who gather silently in public places. But if mind expansion is your musical bag, then Pike's offering should be welcomed.
It seems ironic that such voguish themes are evoked using the most primal instrument of our species. But the drum kit is nothing if not versatile in Pike's hands. His two decades as an innovator in jazz and electronica reach another peak here. On each cut you sense something seismic is about to occur, or has just occurred. A chaos of tinkling noises, maybe the din of infotainment, rises on opening piece "Life Hacks." The title track is all blips and beats like a strange code left to decipher.
Throughout, you get the essence of Pike's jazzy know-how in each rush of cymbals, cross-rhythm or continual pulse. You also sense Nock's minimalist influence when Pike's drum pad triggers piano-like motifs. On the icy "Clouds And Wires" these might well echo a ringtone, or other intrusive noise. Mini explosions recur on "Hard Feelings" with ominous regularity. "Cyber Bully" opens with a drum rap like some kid bashing a tin can, as Pike layers up a claustrophobic sound wall.
Even the cover artwork is telling, with its ancient and abstract desert images. Mystery and myth abound on this album sleeve, much like the music it contains. Yet for all its nervous modernism, Distant Early Warning is a work of intense serenity. It may echo our chronic culture, but offers a beautiful space with room to breathe.
Life Hacks; Distant Early Warning; Clouds And Wires; Hard Feelings; Cyber Bully; Corporate Memory.
Laurence Pike: drums, percussion, drum pad sampler.
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