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Kevin Drumm - Relief

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Artist: Kevin Drumm

Album: Relief

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Nov. 5, 2012

Kevin Drumm’s latest album may be Relief, but its not the sort that will go down easy. After two relatively easy listening releases (for Drumm, at least) -- 2008’s Imperial Distortion and 2009’s Imperial Horizon -- Drumm’s not only returned to the label that released what many consider to be his finest moment, 2002’s Sheer Hellish Miasma, he’s also brought back some of the ear shredding snarl that marked his landmark works in the early 2000s. While Drumm’s never really abandoned the hard stuff (and there’s been plenty of cassettes and CD-Rs released in between), the bridge from these two Hospital albums and his newest is a striking one. Lovers of the more placid tones of Drumm’s Imperial pair aren’t totally out of luck, but on Relief they’ll need to do some digging.

Relief is markedly single-minded: The album’s sole track begins in media res, dropping the listener into music that’s already reached a high boil, and the intensity is sustained over the album’s entire 37 minutes. The music’s top layer is a cacophonous brew of upper register mayhem, a symphony of distorted squeals, squelches and static panned across the stereo field. What’s more interesting about Relief, though, lies below its shrapnel laden surface, in an underground river of doleful drones that peeks up between the sharp corners and spiny spasms causing a ruckus up above. One might say that Relief is like so many people in the world we live in, wildly active and energetic on the outside, obscuring a sustained sadness at its center. The unwavering tension in the album’s two-tone construction is what keeps these ears at attention. This Relief isn’t about succor; it’s two surfaces set apart for perceptual effect, and the album’s all about those two disparate levels and what happens in between.

Even at its most chaotic, Kevin Drumm’s music usually belies a sense of intentionality, a feeling of controlled purpose no matter the severity of the storm. It’s one of the things that sets him apart: I’ve heard fans talk of Drumm as the most “musical” of noisemakers, or a man who can do more with a few carefully sculpted sounds than most could do with a million. Relief is missing some of that feeling, at least at first glance. But when one begins to move between the album’s two levels, letting their focus fall through the crowded clamor above to the sad siren song that’s running below, before pulling back up again as attention wavers and the ears readjust, the music almost takes on a three-dimensional quality. It seems cliché to say that music works on a few different levels, but in the case of Relief, it’s true.

By Adam Strohm

Other Reviews of Kevin Drumm

Sheer Hellish Miasma

Imperial Distortion

Imperial Horizon

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View all articles by Adam Strohm

Find out more about Editions Mego

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