Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Dave Schoepke: “Tessellated Resonance” (2020) CD Review

Dave Schoepke is a drummer based in the Milwaukee area. You might know him from his work with the bands Lovanova and Blank Radio, or from his work with Willy Porter. He has also released a few solo albums. His new album, Tessellated Resonance, is a solo project, meaning it is all drums and percussion. Years ago, a friend told me he found the Grateful Dead drum solos rather boring, which astounded me. Sure, they weren’t your typical drum solos, they weren’t out to impress you with their speed. It was more about exploring a theme, an idea, a natural phenomenon, an aspect of humanity, or, well, whatever they chose to explore on a particular night. And that is more in line with what Dave Schoepke is doing here. These pieces are about exploring an idea, a theme. That is not to say, of course, that there isn’t some impressive drumming on these tracks, for there certainly is. All the tracks on this release were composed by Dave Schoepke.

The album opens with “Earth Calls,” a short piece that has a dark, sort of mysterious sound. Its title makes me think it works the same way as church bells, calling us to some ceremony, but an earthly one, not necessarily a spiritual or ethereal one. It is like an ancient primal force summoning us. That is followed by “Voices Welcome,” which has a somewhat busier, lighter vibe, perhaps like the people answering the call of the first song, getting ready, coming together, assembling, setting things in motion, a certain joy to their work. “Hartundi” then begins with a steady rhythm, and again we might think of a ceremony, a pulse running beneath us and through us, uniting us. “Loomfixer” does have the sense of some work being done, and while it’s being done, others are moving about, perhaps at a quicker pace, perhaps helping, perhaps simply passing by. And then suddenly there are more voices, and things are beginning to really fall into place, moving more quickly. Until – bam – everything stops. Is the work complete? No, something has happened, because we are back at the start again, having to accomplish the same task. The effect is almost comical. One time when I was listening to this track, that moment when we seem to be back at the beginning made me laugh out loud. The track then, nearly halfway through, begins to move in new directions, and gets exciting. This is one of my personal favorites.

“Nemophilist” begins with the sounds of birds chirping, then eases in. Is humanity rising up from nature, or slowly invading it? Or both? The birds continue to chirp over the drums, so perhaps we are not so destructive as we might seem, for the birds are not disturbed by our presence, and in fact go on chirping after the beat is gone. That’s followed by “Shorn,” a short, but interesting piece that contains a wonderful contrast between lighter sounds and that deep thump. It’s like the energy is all in the lighter sounds, but the control is in that much deeper sound, which also has the final word here. “Sounds After Life” has a somewhat tentative feel at first, like taking hesitant steps into a new world. Then a corner is turned, and something surprises us, keeps us in place until it passes, and we return to our pace. “Air Above” immediately establishes a steady rhythm, with a repeated theme playing above it. There is something kind of tense about this track, however, with that relentless steady beat.

“Currents” then begins with rolls on the snare, but coming from different places, as if answering each other, or each answering a more important call, maybe in preparation for something big. Then a couple of minutes into the track, we get this delightful and cheerful rhythm, a groove you can move to, helping to make this another of the disc’s highlights. That’s followed by “Beyond The Slanting Surfaces,” another exciting piece, a heartbeat at its center, with an entire world seeming to move around it, a people engaged in a slow dance. And that repeated theme feels almost theatrical or cinematic, announcing some other presence. It seems an entire tale is being told here. The disc then concludes with “The Churning Void,” which feels like several voices, each with the same message, the same experience, the same situation, with no escape, until the end, when it eases out, fades out.

CD Track List
  1. Earth Calls
  2. Voices Welcome
  3. Hartundi
  4. Loomfixer
  5. Nemophilist
  6. Shorn
  7. Sounds After Life
  8. Air Above
  9. Currents
  10. Beyond The Slanting Surfaces
  11. The Churning Void
Tessellated Resonance is scheduled to be released on August 5, 2020.

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