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Architek Quartet at Sala Rossa


The pretty girl at the door recognized me and showed us to a pair of rhino leather-covered stools beside the bar. You’ll need these, she said, as she tossed a handful of earplugs on the table. We stared at them: orange alien pupae, they were waiting only for an activating breath of whisky to explode like laser-guided earwigs on speed, their only thought to find an ear and get inside.

I don’t know how long we sat gritting our teeth and making silent fear motions to each other, barely breathing because we did not want to wake Them, before Sparks cracked and swept the pupae off with one brutal motion of her kickboxer forearm. I was deep into a tension fever dream but retained enough presence to hear the orange bastards splatter against the wall, and be relieved.

What kind of place was this? The air was young and thick with hormones while rich first moustaches and long hair glistened among the cabaret tables littering the darkened room. A monstrous pile of drums gleamed onstage like a terrible offering to some wild god. What was about to happen? The glass forest on our table and its implied bill meant we were not leaving, or not yet, not while the terrified waitresses still had eyes for us and so we waited, watching the crowd and holding each other hard.

I was trying to identify the four freaks who’d assembled the drum altars. Indeed, the crazy bastards had built two, the second one was a line of kits that entered the audience from the stage, presumably because that altar would be unplayable after The Sacrifice. So I was confused when four clean guys with tucked-in shirts started checking the drugs, flipping pages of music and tightening screws. Who are these people? It’s a drum quartet for the love of Christ and I know the economy is bad but they can’t have roadies… can they? They didn’t even all have the same sheet music, but photocopies didn’t matter once the banging started, because they played with the fierce focus and determination of a team of Viking oarsmen.

The first half was Crystal Canon for Edgard Varèse by James Tenney, caDance (for four) by Andy Pape (I couldn’t find it online but here’s caDance (for two), Shifty by Dennis DeSantis, and The So-called Laws of Nature, second movement, by David Lang. Verbatim from my notes:
Tenney: fugal, predictable, I am calmed Pape: better, surprising, thinking how you feel the drums as much as you hear them. Ends with sticks on thighs. DeSantis: a factory line. Aye, the Power! They play in a line, the lead man in a ditch-digging crew setting the pace & song for the rest. Lang: remembering OSM’s “time” concert—this is better. There are four identical bundles of aluminum with subtly different sounds (the fourth is not too subtle—is something wrong with your metal pipes, man?)

Second half was For (on) the Floor by Nick Hyatt, Three Identical Forms by Beavan Flanagan, both who were in the audience. Take that, you sad dead bastards, this music is alive! And Dark Full Ride by Julia Wolfe. More notes:
Hyatt: Hammers! They must all be deaf. Finely shaped blocks of aluminum metal like mutant iRejects. I’ve never seen such a loving gentle hammer wield. Imagine the neighbours when they rehearse. Textures not rhythms. A construction site. Does the sandpaper have a mic? Flanagan: A computer controls each tempo individually through headphones—isolating. There are about sixty people here. Drumming with piano hands. Never exactly the same, and unlike bowing it seems easier to make out differences in style. Wolf: Painful concentration of one hat constant, ceaseless, merciless while the rest scurry around—even through changes the 3 on 1 form stays constant. Is he being punished?
Then it was done and we were done and yes, I finished all your rum bartender, but I will be back and then I can pay you. For I will go again to listen and feel the Architek Percussion Quartet.

Photos by Wesley Wilquin.