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Tim Barnes - All Acoustics

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Artist: Tim Barnes

Album: All Acoustics

Label: Quakebasket

Review date: Apr. 22, 2002

A man for all seasons, percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Tim Barnes has performed and recorded alongside a diverse array of contemporary music’s most celebrated sound adventurers. A short list that includes Tony Conrad, the Silver Jews, Jim O’Rourke, P.G. Six, Neil Hagerty, Ikue Mori, Pullman, the Essex Green, Nagisa Ni Te, and the Tower Recordings merely hints at the range of styles at which Barnes is comfortable exploring and expanding. He is as comfortable at adding a new rhythm to pop, folk, and country songs as he is at applying such an approach to electro-acoustic drone pieces, and for a long time fans such as myself have been wishing and wondering what in the world Barnes would do if he were ever to release a solo album.

All Acoustics is a re-issued recording of two solo percussion improvisations recorded and performed by Barnes without overdubs on July 18, 2001. Located at the heart of what allows Barnes to pull off all of his scene-stealing rhythmic feats (such as leading acoustic-Fahey- folk musers, Pullman, in a cover of Brian Eno’s "Here Come the Warm Jets" at a recent live performance), the album sums up to nearly an hour of Barnes exploring his entire percussive palette—no guitars, no strings, no synths, no horns, just drums.

All Acoustics’s closest relative might be the 1974’s legendary collaboration between free-jazz percussionists Milford Graves and Andrew Cyrille entitled Dialogue of Drums. (Rashied Ali accompanied them on the albums live performances as well, and between the three, they’d worked with every free-jazz luminary under and over the sun, including but no limited to: John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Pharaoh Sanders, and Cecil Taylor). A summit between drum-masters whose rhythmic arsenals (like Barnes’) stretched far beyond the traditional drum kit and incorporated ingredients from Africa, Asia, India, and the Caribbean, Dialogue of Drums was and is still a difficult and noisy listen, however, it’s display of virtuosity and sense freedom is without equal.

Indeed, the cover art to All Acoustics, entitled "Conversation Between Kites," gives a bit of hint toward the difference between Barnes' approach to the drums as compared to that of Graves, Cyrille, or Ali. Where theirs is a Dialogue, Barnes’ is a Conversation, and if theirs is between Drums, then his is…well, if it’s not between Kites, then it certainly sounds like it could be between him, Angus Maclise (the super turned-on Velvet Underground founding drummer who also played with Terry Riley, and like Barnes, with Tony Conrad, and whose drum-scapes were recently re-issued by Barnes on Quakebasket), Famoudou Don Moye (the theatrical face-painted drummer behind the Art Ensemble of Chicago), and some other form of high-flying Kite. Either way, All Acoustics is a revelation.

By Daniel Dineen

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