On Nerve Beats, a welcome reissue of a live 1973 Radio Bremen recording, drummer Han Bennink occupies the stage alone. But he's got a complete toy kit, and they are toys in the most playful sense. During, between, and after his drum improvisations he employs whistles, hoots, hollers, clarinet, trombone, and whatever it takes to allow him the freedom to twist the music inside out. The drumming on Nerve Beats can be busy, pulsing, and polyrhythmicor sparse, colorful, and open. Bennink occasionally relies upon an early drum machine to allow him the ability to perform sonic overlays. But most of the record consists of straightforward live acoustic work on drums, cymbals, and tabla. Plus toys.
Nerve Beats is one of the most spontaneous things Bennink has ever done. It's also the only document in print of his early solo work. An extremely clever drummer, he rapidly develops new ideas and then just as easily discards them for something else. Since this is a live recording (and the sonics are actually quite good), listening to Nerve Beats is like taking a living, breathing voyage through sound. Bennink stands eagerly at the helm, directing the acceleration and deceleration, performing unannounced twists and turns. For those listeners who may have experienced Bennink in other contexts (such as the wildly successful Clusone 3), this record allows a clear, unobstructed view of his vision. Stark, wild, and clever: this recording documents a master at work with a stageful of tools at his disposal.