A percussionist with fierce rhythmic dynamism and a multiplicity of ideas, Brian Shankar Adler has steadily assembled a formidable body of work over the last several years, despite being relatively under-recognized. Much of this music has been released incrementally, through digitally downloaded EPs, perhaps attenuating its impact. But Adler should receive much more visibility with Fourth Dimension, a full-length album that pulls together the best of his work since 2015, and it offers a strong portrait of one of the more creative, forward-thinking drummers on the scene today.
Since 2016's Binary (Circavision) and Mysteries of the Deep (Circavision), Adler has kept the same company, a smart move in fostering cohesion and a shared approach. Vibraphonist Matt Moran, pianist Santiago Leibson, guitarist Jonathan Goldberger and bassist Rob Jost are all veterans with their own substantial resumes, but their partnership with Adler reveals their affinity for music with open-ended contours and internal tensions. There is beauty in Adler's music, but it usually is found beneath the surface of the uncanny, leaving one just a bit unnerved in following its logic.
Some of Adler's work might be too conceptual for its own good; Binary was written with the help of a computer-based algorithm, lending an occasional austerity to the music. In contrast, Fourth Dimension emphasizes the warmer side of Adler's disposition, but without diluting his pieces' complexity and heft. Indeed, what one notices more than anything here is the groove at the heart of the music. Pieces like "Mantra"which features Adler's terrific brushwork over a simmering melody articulated by Moran in dialogue with Goldbergeror "Rudram," an overt gesture to Indian classical musicwith irresistible energy, offer ample proof of Adler's ability to create compelling rhythmic momentum.
But it is also Adler's adept use of his colleagues that warrants interest. Moran alternates between offering melody and texture, perfectly realized on the menacing "Pulses," a piece with brooding intensity, and Goldberger's skewed interjections help create the eerie mood of "Pendulum." Leibson's judicious use of electronics plays an essential role in establishing the disorienting spirit of "Gowanus," before he shifts to a more assertive piano presence in accentuating the piece's insistent drive.
While those following Adler's development have savored each brief glimpse of his craft, it is nice to have a more extensive document with which to investigate his artistic trajectory, one which will hopefully draw even more attention to this enterprising percussionist and composer.
Introduction Drone; Mantra; Rudram; Pulses; Windy Path; Gowanus; Watertown; Nuearth; Pendulum; Rise and Fall; Alternative Facts.
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