Brian Chase

Drums & Drones

published in The Wire No.419, London, 2018
Brian Chase (2018)


A resonant crack bursts through the speakers. It is the sound of Brian Chase striking the rim of his snare, signalling the commencement of "Melody Drum Drone", the opening track on the third CD of his compendium Drums And Drones: Decade (2018). A solo of sorts follows: a harmodelic pitter-pattering of rim shots, like water dripping and dancing in a metal bucket. The track also signals an end-point in an aural journey to discovering the microsonic and microphonic artefacts that result from pondering: if a drummer sitting in a room alone hits a snare, will it be heard?

If this sounds like something in the thrall of Lamonte Young - that's because it is. Brian spent time volunteering at Young's Dream House about 10 years ago, and fell under the spell of Young's dronal indoctrination of how sound absorbs the self through meditated states of listening. But here is where we deviate from that standard narrative, which has fuelled a slew of ponderous drone works furnished by rock dudes acting experimental. Brian is a legit rocker (drumming for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs among numerous more underground projects) and has spent his fare share of slogging gigs and gruelling tours. How many times in a year had he already thwacked a rim shot before encountering Young's sense of reflective space? Could not that experience be a substantial backdrop to the focussed listening he brings to his Drums And Drones project?

In listening to the three CDs, I read Brian's rock background as crucial to shaping a peculiar character to his tracks. It's almost as if we are inside Brian's head, hearing the proto-tinnitus ringing of the sounds he makes by striking his instrument. That ringing is a feedback loop of how his surrounding space is activated into a shimmering after-tone. Each strike of his drum queries when - if at all - the ringing of a drum hit ends. Like a sonic microscope zooming in further and further, the answer is never.


Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Brian Chase.