Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tommy Brunjes and Theta Transport: New Age, Old Age, New Ethnicities, Frozen Minimalism?


I can't tell you how interesting it is to get things for review that one would never hear or even consider, supposing one still habituates what are left of the brick and mortar establishments, which one does not. I do miss the days when I went to a record store with x dollars to spend and took chances on things I really didn't know much about so my knowledge and ear capacity could grow.

That impetus, more or less squelched for a time, has re-arisen with the packages of unknown music that arrive daily in my mailbox. And there's the Internet. But another time for that. (Too complicated and there are lots of issues involved with it. No need addressing them right now.)

So when I pulled percussionist Tommy Brunjes' CD out of the mailer, and read Theta Transport: Rhythmic Entrainment for Entering the Zone of Creativity (Sounds True, no catalog number), I raised my eyebrows a hair and, I'll admit, struck a sceptical pose.

Forget about what "entrainment" might be. The CD also notes that one should "File Under New Age." Well now that made me doubly dubious. To my mind there's nothing quite so banal as bad Keith Jarrett imitations or super-cosmic elevator drivel. At least that's pretty much a consistent gut reaction with me.

However I feel obligated to listen to whatever is sent my way. At least once. So I put the disk in the player and let it rip. Hmm....Turns out this is rather distinctive music. There are insistent mallet pulsations, a mid-eastern frame drum, some continual synth white noisoid sonorities and some extra sound dabs from the vibes here and there. The music locks into a trance groove early on and more or less stays there for an hour. Unlike minimalism, it's aim is not to change much at all. It's some kind of cosmically unspecific ethnic music from an unspecified region.

Yeah, it's not SUPPOSED to change. So OK I can get that. It may seem like the most boring record ever made, a backing track, a one-hour background to a foreground that never makes itself known. On one level it is all of that. But the foreground, I guess, is supposed to be you the listener somehow being creative. Making wax drip onto paper in colorful patterns, painting grandma's old tea service in purple and pink. . . whatever.

Funny thing is, it really isn't bad to hear. As long as you don't expect anything to happen (because it does not) you can put it on and drift into its snoozy somnolence. If this is what new age can be, well, it's not nearly as bad as what else there's been.

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