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Jojo Mayer's Nerve: Prohibited Beats

Phil DiPietro By

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The Moller Whip, the one-hand roll, the push and pull, the heel-toe—dance steps, candy bars, perhaps? No, they're the names of incredible drum techniques attributed to and perfected by charismatic Swiss drummer Jojo Mayer. If you want to know what these techniques are, explore the plethora of drum-centric websites or the demo clips on YouTube documenting his dazzling appearances at the world's major drumfests, where he's royalty.

Not documented enough on record, performances beyond his most readily available with the Vienna Art Orchestra or guitarist David Fiuczynski remain regrettably obscure. He's been more visible on the live circuit with his band Nerve in Europe, and at regular New York-centric appearances stateside, performing live drum'n'bass at the highest level of any drummer who has ever attempted it. Mayer makes other drummers trying this sort of thing, many of them better-known, look downright hackneyed. But his localized rep was sorely in need of recorded proof, until now.

Besides being a futuristic disciple of Joe Morello and Buddy Rich, Mayer's an ardent exponent of electronic styles, readily capable of deconstructing and transcribing every subgenre of DJ flavor. That scrutiny applies to choosing his band mates, bassist John Davis and multi-keyboardist/trumpeter Tak Nakamura, who are dead-on at every level throughout this genre-defining recording. And while no sequences, drum loops or DJs are allowed, "real time audio deconstruction" is provided by Roli Mossimann.

Davis' sub-sonics on "Retox" and "Sedation" show his acumen for the style and refined usage of effects. Nakamura's propensity for un-sequenced synth washes and waves that change subtly and swirl through motifs in real time holds the concept together, as on "Sedation" or the blitzkrieg that is "Bataar." On "Jabon" and "Retox" the muted Milesian colors he adds on trumpet are indispensable, as is the mini-section he creates on the latter.

But its Mayer who consistently boggles the mind, whether on the chops-laden ending of "Retox," the sci-fi Head Hunterisms of "Syncopath," or the laid-back complexity tossed off in "7even."

Nevertheless, it should be the absolutely inhuman display of what Mayer might term drum'n'bass "rudiments" on "Far," complete with startling syncopations between stanzas executed with a lone right hand, that elevate him to legendary status among drum-heads. Flurrying under massive bass and piercing minimal, but perfectly placed, synth colors, Mayer absolutely slays it, and along with the song, our concept of what drummers are capable of.

The thing is, Nerve could have made this exact same record in 1999, placing Mayer jarringly ahead of the curve, staking rightful claim to the throne of live drum'n'bass. No matter coming late as it does—this record establishes that, in this style, Mayer is the cat—ever-assuring his legacy. As right now today as he was then, this shot across the bow signals his moment—here's hoping he leverages it to document his other equally virtuosic percussive personas.


Track Listing: Ulaan Bataar; Far; Retox; 7even; Pleasure Control; Jabon; Syncopath; Tribute; Sedation; Deprivation.

Personnel: Jojo Mayer: drums; Roli Mosimann: real time audio deconstruction; Takuya Nakamura: keyboards, trumpet; John Davis: bass guitar.

Title: Prohibited Beats | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced


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