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Nathan Hubbard - "Blind Orchid"

This well-orchestrated recording of eight compositions by Nathan Hubbard could possibly stimulate the average listener into a better appreciation of the exciting and provocative sounds that can be provided electronically. And it could also stimulate the percussionist's creative juices relative to coordination between electronic sounds and pure solo percussion performance. Of the eight tracks, the primary "real" percussion is drumset, with some additional live percussion. Tracks one and eight are essentially recorded sounds while the other six tracks involve drumset. Especially interesting is the performer/composer's extended sounds using his voice as well as homemade and found instruments. Also intriguing is the forth track, "wisdom of not knowing II," for eight overdubbed drumsets. This is not dinner music, but it would likely appeal to any creative percussionist who likes electronic music combined with solo percussion.

     - Michael Combs, Percussive Notes

Yeah, a whole record of drum solos. Kinda. Multi-tracking, vocal percussion, samples, piano resonance and dub mixing make this, well, still a whole record of drum solos, but unpredictably so.

     - WFMU

Nathan Hubbard, percussionist, has appeared on a number of albums reviewed across the &etc years, mainly on Circumspection and Accretions. This solo album - Blind Orchid - is on Accretions (www.accretions.com, ALP043) and is subtitled solo works for percussion and electronics. This release continues from his previous solo collection Born on Tuesday (circumvention SA081) and also complements ensemble releases Compositions 1998-2005 (circumvention CS121a/b) and Skeleton Key Orchestra (circumvention 039a/b) to give us a view of his developing oeuvre.

This is a very constructured, musique concrete album. i/nside (no exit) is a helter skelter of jumpy percussion creaking and groaning with a voice in the mix, which finally succumbs to a cracking up to break up (the lyrics are included in small writing in the diagram that accompanies the track in the booklet). more processing and piano resonance join percussion and voice in 17 stone park stutter/breath, with events occuring around a percussion solo (such as voice pops, and skittering hollows) that segues into a keening section and then complex rumbling rolling sounds with the piano twangs before a long slow fade. A simple drum solo and poem is Microhole; while another dense drumming solo, with some deep resonances forms Wisdom of not knowing II (for Stomu Yamash'ta).

The title track again carries us on a complex journey from fast distorted percussion into a pulsing tone, a simpler gonging central section, a voice crackle that builds a wave of percussion and feedback. A flowing percussion with tones and tinkles (possibly a sonographic tape) drops and rebuilds in Circle within a circle (for Max Neuhaus). Another normalish drum solo in Witchball breaks up through the processing and returns. A loose jack buzz opens Close to the margin with a metal percussion, building and speeding up over the track, layering, with a chittering end.

Not a simple percussion album - which makes it that much more interesting to me. Prepare to be unsettled as these constructions unfold before you in a complex weaving of processing and electronics, which my descriptions only begin to explore.

     - Jeremy Keens, Ampersand, etcetera

Nathan Hubbard is back with the far reaches of jazz. Jazz? Yes, if you accept the truest spirit of jazz. For you won't find the instrumentation you expect. This music won't be filling any smoky music clubs. No, this is jazz in the purest sense. Experimentation. Odd rhythms. And weird "instrumentation." Yes, this is experimental music. But I can't help but feel in the midst of all this manipulated noise that there is an undercurrent of jazzishness to my ears. Most will probably scratch their ears and wonder how in the hell I could hear jazz here. But if you understand what jazz was really all about, taking music in new directions, then surely you can understand how this is jazz, noise and all.

     - Raves/DJ FX

American musician Nathan hubbard's clattery drums and metals, and his use of raucous electronics, hark back to the work of improvising percussionists such as Tony Oxley and Paul Lytton, but he works very much with composition in mind. His aim seems to be to minutely control his material without losing an improvisor's sense of immediacy. In this he succeeds admirably, and the use of overdubbing and prerecorded material enables him to build solo performances of ensemble density and complexity.

Even one of the seemingly more straightforward solos, "17 Stone Park Stutter/Breath", involves playing percussion into the belly of a piano to utilize its resonant characteristics; not to mention the use of voice, percussion, electronics and processing. Perhaps the simplest track of all is "Microhole", where Hubbard recites a poem while improvising a solo drumkit.

Much more complex and rather more typical of the album as a whole, however, is "Wisdom of Not Knowing II", dedicated to percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta (one of Oxley and Lytton's contemporaries, though he worked in a different genre), which involves the overlaying of eight drum kit solos in a deliriously dense dub mix. A stuttery Discman playing rehearsal sessions from one of Hubbard's groups, Cosmologic, features on "Witchball", but the cliches that usually come with such material are avoided. The title track and "Circle Within A Circle", the latter dedicated to percussionist Max Neuhaus, are perhaps the strongest items in an impressive programme. Hubbard shapes his material imaginatively, and on "Blind Orchid" he counters irrestible momentum with a spacious, ritualistic use of struck metals, and concludes with a section of enveloping feedback that seems to swallow time whole.

     - Brian Marley, The Wire

Among today's percussionists, Nathan Hubbard is the anti-paradigm par excellence. His music is "free" in an almost absurd acceptation, but sounds composed; he uses self-made apparata and a no-input mixer to enrich his world with devastating ulcerations and triturated patterns, often accompanying the fruits of creativity with uttered syllables, desiccated rapping and indecipherable wording. To obtain different washes and contrasts, machineries, percussion and microphones are frequently re-positioned into other things and instruments (including the room, perceived by Hubbard as a single entity with the drum, both "resonant objects with an implied need for activity"). The outcome of this "activity" could well rival a natural catastrophe as far as damage to the landscape of commonplace is concerned: there's nothing in "Blind orchid" that can be conjugated with other people's material. Hubbard produces an incredible amount of different projections, which he renders even more unpredictable through processes of multiple re-recording and playback of pre-existing tracks, with the effect of completely displacing any notion of commonly intended "pulse", putting us in communication with a regulated chaos that is much nearer to life's happenings than those boxed subdivisions invented centuries ago because men needed something to clutch at to remain anchored to their retrograde conceptions. The problem is, the same still happens nowadays and we're lucky that smart guys like Nathan cross our road trying to show what the real rhythms of the earth are. A nimble musician, whose exciting hyperactivity wakes up from the incantations of expectation and the sortileges of delusion; a gorgeous album that vibrates and quivers with intelligent ideas, great cleverness in sound placement and the joy of showing everybody that, when one meets serious artists whose main intent is "playing with their playing", anything can happen. Unconditionally guaranteed against mental apathy, to be enjoyed loudly and repeatedly.

     - Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes

The subtitle 'Solo works for percussion and electronics' makes clear what is going on this cd. Like Matt Weston, introduced earlier in Vital Weekly with his releases on 7272Music, Nathan Hubbard is a musician melting percussion and electronics together. An interesting little section within the world of experimental music, if you ask me. As the minicds of Matt Weston are very promising, so is this cd by Nathan Hubbard a real find. With 'Blind Orchid' he delivers a cd of very complete music that has much to offer and is very engaging. 'Blind Orchid' is the second solo effort by Hubbard, who produced, recorded and mixed the album by himself. 'Born On Tuesday' (2004) his first one, was released by Circumvention Music. Besides Hubbard is involved in numerous collaborations with people like guitarist Noah Phillips, percussionist Curtis Glatter, the trio ARC Trio and the quartet Cosmologic, etc. Also Hubbard is a member of the Trummerflora Collective. For each track on his solo cd Hubbard lists up the equipment used. Like eight overdubbed drumkits/percussion, dub mix + processing in the piece "Wisdom of not knowing II", dedicated to Stomu Yamashta. Remember..? All pieces sound very vivid and self-consciousness. Hubbard creates rich worlds of multi-layered sound and textures, with great dynamics and action, and without burying his ideas under to much of al this. Yes, here something is really interesting is going on. Like some of the pieces of Weston they sometimes have an almost orchestral outlook. Great. A man with a vision is at work here, who successfully combines his talents as an improviser, composer and instrument builder, seeking for a new musical language.

     - Dorf Mueller, Vital Weekly

If it is indeed true, as Nathan Hubbard believes, that the room and the drum are inherently the same and both "resonant objects with an implied need for activity", then he has certainly chosen the right instruments - this man can't sit still! Just like the cover art to his second solo CD could be depicting satellite shots of roads leading in all directions at the same time, while crossing and penetrating each other's lines on every level, "Blind Orchid" is a statement of energy, action and flurry, as well as a confession of love for the sounds of percussions.

In Hubbard's world, at least, a drum is still a drum. Large parts of the material on display here either consist of him playing his kit against a backdrop of processed noise or of mixing up to eight prerecorded tracks over and against one another. In any case, the original character of his toms, hihats, bassdrums and snares is saved throughout most of the disc's running time. Just like there are various layers to the artwork, there are different degrees of complexity with regards to this approach.

"Circle within a circle", a tribute to architect and visual artist Max Neuhaus, was realised with a simple setup of a percussion and a tape backing. In a full length clip, Hubbard demonstrates his technique and watching him use ethereal, floating dronescapes as a starting point, gently coaxing them with cowbells, before rubbing his brushes against the drumhead and conjuring up rumbling rhythms until the piece attains a raw jazz vibe is one of the reasons Youtube does make sense after all.

"Close to the Margin" and the title track are more intricate works with more extensive arrangements, which include plate chimes, amplified grates, radio, a selection of metal and diverse overdubs synced with the live performance. This also hints at the mood of the entire record: Hubbard feels best when there are several things happening at the same time, some of them within, others beyond his control. The combination of predictable events (such as the prepared music) and the spontaneous reaction to them makes this an agile and colourful affair, which needs to be consumed wide-awake, if you don't want to miss a thing.

It is hard for me to say whether "Blind Orchid" supports the idea of the equality between drum and room. Even though each track places the instruments somewhere else in the same space (Marcos Fernades' Termite Studios in California) and plays with the positioning of the microphone, not all of this is completely apparent without prior knowledge of the creative process. What it has translated to, however, is that the album maintains a certain purity of instrumentation, while managing to lend each work an atmosphere of its own. A drum may still be a drum, but with Nathan Hubbard, it sounds surprisingly fresh.

     - Tobias Fischer, Tokafi

Quite a few reviews of Nathan's music have been written in these pages but this is the first pure percussion CD we've reviewed by him. It is recommended that you do this listening with headphones, & that you allow for (at least) an hour's worth of isolation... it's not the kind of album you will "grok" in spurts. The opener, "i/nside (no exit)" is nearly an "industrial" kind of sound, wherein he uses various & sundry elements (including his voice) to project a feeling of frenetic energy. There are, in fact, whole worlds inside his forays into the mysteries of percussion. Witchball" (cut 7) is my favorite on the album, as it is the "crispest" recording of drums I've ever heard, & believe me, I've heard more than a few. If you're looking for ballroom jazz, or a host of horns, you'll go elsewhere... but if your mind is attuned to exploring true talent in a hyper-creative zone, you'll GET THIS one! It gets a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating from us! A very interesting sonic experience!

     - Dick Metcalf, Improvization Nation

NATHAN HUBBARD, elektrifizierter Percussionist und Trummerflora-Collectivist, ist auch allein und ohne sein Skeleton Key Orchestra oder den Ensembles Everything After, Cosmologic und Return To One ein Plural, eine Wucherung. Blind Orchid (ALP044) zeigt die Entwicklung seiner Ein-Mann-Show seit Born On Tuesday (2004). Sampling, Processing, Electronics, Overdubs, Tapes sorgen für komplexe Klangbilder, die rumpelnd und scheppernd urbane und industriale Hektik reflektieren. ‚Wisdom of not knowing II' ist Stomu Yamash'ta, ‚Circle within a circle' dem Klanginstallateur Max Neuhaus gewidmet. Hubbard simuliert die rumorenden Eingeweide einer Stadt, kollabierende Architektur, hyperaktive Metallverarbeitung, tektonisches Beben, Werkhallenlärm, wie er den Golfern oder der Fry's Electronics-Belegschaft in San Marco, CA wohl kaum je zu Ohren kam. Black Orchid ist, wenn auch nicht nur, rasende Solopercussionvirtuosität eines Vishnus unter Strom. Hubbards Dynamik ist dabei Raum greifend, bis hin zu Raum sprengend. Er baut wie in Zeitraffer sperrige Klangskulpturen, Phantasiegebilde aus Metall und Lärm, die jedem Nutzen und jeder Logik spotten. Durch das finale, besonders krachige ‚Close to the margin' wuselt das Trommeläffchen zuerst mit Stricknadeln und glockt dann, zum King Kong mutiert, mit Kuhglocken, so groß wie Ölfässer.

     - Rigobert Dittman, Bad Alchemy

Für das Label Accretions ist der Schlagzeuger Nathan Hubbard eine Ausnahme - seine Werke haben die noch konventionellste Struktur - wenn von "konventionell" auch eher nicht zu sprechen ist. Sicher liegt das am Hauptinstrument des Avantgarde-Spezialisten: seinem Schlagzeugset und dessen natürlichen Klängen, die in dem tonalen Gewitter dieser Klangfülle immer wieder entscheidende Einflüsse haben und die Arrangements beherrschen. Dennoch sind wir hier mitten in der freien Improvisation - auch für Nathan Hubbard, der bereits an deutlich konventionelleren Projekten beteiligt war, man denke etwa nur an Mike Keneally und dessen wahrlich hübsches "Wooden Smoke" - und Hubbard hat Electronics, Tapes und Prozessoren auf seine Weise entdeckt.

"Blind Orchid" klingt dennoch im Vergleich zu Accretions-Labelkollegen leichter nachvollziehbar, weil das Schlagzeug neben Stimmen, Pianoklängen und allerlei weiterer Perkussion gewohnte(re) Strukturen zieht. Hubbard ist ein wahrhaft virtuoser Musiker, der mit ungemein Inspiration so etwas wie "Heavy Metal" der freien Improvisation erschafft. Sein Opener "i/nside ( no exit)" ist die Herausforderung: wild, harsch, hart, schnell, laut - so wie es beginnt, hört es auf. Erst ist man erschlagen, dann vermisst man das Stück. Doch schon sitzen wir mitten im Album, hören röhrende Gitarrensounds, verspielte Jazz-Perkussion, Tapes dröhnen im Off ab, Resonanzen ziehen am Horizont vorbei, das Schlagzeug klingt wie Cello (!) - wie macht der das nur?

Die tonale Achterbahnfahrt auf "Blind Orchid" hat zwar harsche, avantgardistische Struktur, klingt aber - im Gegensatz zu einigen seiner Labelkollegen - einladend und macht neugierig. Was, meint man zu denken, kommt danach. Wie geht es weiter. Und: wie ist der nur darauf gekommen. Bei dem großen Output, den Nathan Hubbard allein in den letzten paar Jahren hatte, darunter Bigband-Produktionen auf voller 2CD, Kollaborationen mit Labelkollegen und Mitgliedern des losen, riesigen (um mal mit Polina Daschkowa [Russlands spannendste Krimiautorin liebt das Wort "riesig"] zu sprechen) Trummerflora Collective, dem weit über 50 Musiker angehören, die in vielen kleinen oder großen Ensembles alle Arten freier Improvisation, freier Klänge entwickeln und gestalten, kommt man unweigerlich zu der Frage, woher die Inspiration für so viele und so unterschiedliche Musik kommen kann.

"Microhole", nur Stimme und Drumset, ist ein Avantgarde-Rap. Hubbard spricht in nüchternem Rap-Stil und lässt sein Schlagzeug dazu abstrakte Jazzklänge entwerfen, ein Doppelsolo, ineinander gemixt. Ob er das auch live hinkriegt? Die harsche, düstere elektronische Klangsprache der Prozessoren, die gesampelten Sounds, Hubbards Stimme, immer etwas im Off, sein freies Schlagzeugspiel - das sind die Zutaten eines Films, eines tonalen Films, der keine vordergründige Action, keinen harten Sex oder andere billige Elemente kennt, um seine schlechte Story zu verstecken. Diese Story ist so gut wie die Phantasie des Hörers reich.

     - Volkmar Mantei, Ragazzi

Des explications détaillées du dossier de presse (de la « feuille de presse » plutôt), il ressort que Nathan Hubbard traite le son de sa batterie (dont il ne cesse de jouer somme toute classiquement) en variant les manières de l'enregistrer et le mêlant à des tas d'autres choses. Pour la piste 1, la recette est la suivante : sampler, bandes de concert, traitement électronique. Piste 2 : batterie, électronique, voix, résonance d'un piano, traitement électronique. Piste 4 : huit couches de batterie et percussions, mixage, traitement électronique. Piste 5 : batterie, électronique, radio, mélange de batterie et de métal, traitement électronique. etc.… A l'intérieur de la pochette, huit schémas représentent la disposition des objets en cause dans un composé de dessin technique et de vision poétique de chaque morceau. Dans ce monde visuel quadrillé et cerclé manque l'individu qui joue. Mais c'est bien lui qu'on entend sur le cd, et le reste de la mise en scène disparaît devant l'évidence qu'un musicien, un compositeur, se trouve là, dont la musique, mise à distance dans le processus de fabrication, nous touche sans médiation.

     - Noel Tachet


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