Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019

by Ian Mann

November 08, 2022


A rewarding, if sometimes challenging, listen. Barker brings a unique perspective to the drum kit and Kim’s Korean roots help to ensure that she is a similarly distinctive player.

Jeremy Rose & The Earshift Orchestra featuring Simon Barker and Chloe Kim

“Disruption! The Voice of Drums”

(Earshift Records EAR067)

Jeremy Rose – composer, tenor sax, bass clarinet, Simon Barker – composer, drums, Chloe Kim – composer, drums, Thomas Avgenicos – trumpet, Hilary Geddes – guitar, Novak Monojlovic – piano, Rhodes, Prophet synth, Jacques Emery – bass, Ben Carey – modular synth

Jeremy Rose is a Sydney based musician, composer, bandleader, festival director and record label owner. He is the founder of the Earshift record label, an imprint that has released more than sixty albums to date and which has several more in the pipeline. He has been involved in several international musical collaborations, including projects with guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Lionel Loueke.

Rose leads his own jazz quartet plus the larger Earshift Orchestra and has also been a key member of bands such as The Vampires, The Strides and the Compass Saxophone Quartet. His sideman credits include work with guitarist Cameron Undy and pianist and bandleader Mike Nock.

A well travelled musician Rose has always been interested in the music of other cultures and has always harboured a fascination for drum based music and the power that it can generate, particularly when applied as a means of political protest. Hence the title “Disruption!”, which finds him collaborating with two master drummers, fellow Australian Simon Barker and the Korean born, Sydney based Chloe Kim.

Barker has spent more than twenty years studying the traditional rhythms and cultures of the Asia Pacific region. This involved a lengthy period based in Korea and he has since acted as a mentor for Kim, who moved to Sydney in 2012 and has since immersed herself in the Australian jazz and improvised music scene, whilst also exploring other genres such as rock and hip hop.

“Disruption!” finds Rose, Barker and Kim collaborating together as both composers and performers in the company of the musicians of the Earshift Orchestra, as listed above. Rose views the album as “a soundtrack to 2020, one of the most disruptive years in history with raging bush fires, global pandemic, civil unrest and a growing ecological disaster. Whilst challenging us all, we hope this work offers an opportunity to reflect”.

The work was premièred at the 2021 Sydney Festival with the live performance, accompanied by visual art works created by video artists Paul Mosig and Rachel Peachey and with Rose commenting;
“Disruption! The Voice of Drums” was germinated in the political, environmental and ecological turmoil of recent years. Our chants and rhythms, some of which appear on the album, were heard on the streets when we could gather. In our isolation we beat out mass pot and pan improvisations across the globe. Drums, the abiding visceral centre for community rituals, ceremonies and protest spoke what we couldn’t say or had been saying to deaf ears. Drums have the capacity to alter brainwaves. We could do with more of that”.

Rose’s own writing for the “Disruption!” project found him composing music to complement Barker and Kim’s solo drum recordings, with the original drum parts later re-composed in response to Rose’s input. The new arrangements / compositions were further explored at a series of workshop sessions featuring Rose and the two drummers. This method of working ensures that Rose receives a co-credit on most of the pieces on this record.

The album commences with the Rose / Barker collaboration “Chant 12 For The Pacific Islands”, which has its origins in a project that Barker began in 2015. This involved the creation of a series of drum chants expressing a solidarity with the island communities in the Pacific that are facing upheaval due to climate change. “Chant 12” was written for Kiribati and the Marshall Islands and deploys a process that Barker describes as ‘coiling’, the coils being “dense layered collections of rhythmic patterning”. “Chant 12” finds Barker’s drums and their complex rhythmic patterns at the heart of the music, but with the sounds of the other instruments and particularly the horns and keyboards, adding layers of colour, texture and punctuation. These help to create an atmosphere of impending doom, reflective of the forthcoming environmental apocalypse.

The second Rose / Barker collaboration is “Road To Body”, which also deploys the use of “coil forms”. The title refers to Barker’s compositional method of running long distances bare foot and translating his physical experiences into music.
“The idea of this piece was to try and generate a series of rhythmic forms that connected to the physical experience associated with bare feet touching unique patches of road. Each step is like a handful of sand featuring unique contours, textures and amounts of information transmitted from the road to the body”.
The road in question was in Mino, Japan and the music is more reflective than on the opener with Rose’s bass clarinet and Geddes’ acoustic guitar featuring on the gently atmospheric (and amazingly drum free) introduction. When the drums eventually emerge they do so with a taiko like power. Meanwhile Rose’s bass clarinet ruminations recall such masters of the instrument as Eric Dolphy. As the piece progresses the drums achieve a greater prominence with the other instruments again reverting to a more subordinate role. When writing for this album Rose adopted a method of “treating harmony and melody as a layer that need not lock in with what was being played on the drums, serving to enhance and provide space for Simon and Chloe’s performances”.

“O Yeok, Cil-Chae” is a traditional Korean tune arranged by Kim and Barker and features the two drummers working in tandem. It features some virtuoso playing and represents a fascinating listening experience. Performed on drums alone the piece is vibrant and highly rhythmic, but also offers flashes of colour, texture and even melody.

A shorter drum led “Interlude” follows, credited to Rose and Barker.

“The Trace”, credited to Rose / Kim, features the Korean’s first offering as a composer, one in which she aims to “emphasise the drum kit’s ability to produce melodic concepts like any other melodic / harmonic focussed instrument”. Her melodic and rhythmic patterns are enhanced by horns, keyboards and other instruments. There’s an agreeable urgency about the music that recalls the UK ‘punk jazz’ movement (Acoustic Ladyland etc.)

Kim’s second offering is “Appear To Be”, a piece inspired by the flight of a bird and the rhythms of its wing movements. The introduction is eerie and atmospheric with Kim sketching melodic and rhythmic drum patterns above ambient keyboard sounds. This creates a mood that continues until the horns eventually enter and the drum sounds become increasingly assertive. Overall this represents a highly effective piece, which eventually concludes in much the same way as it began.

Rose’s own “Hold Tight”  is a loosely structured slow burner that features Emery’s melodic electric bass in its early stages before entering a more turbulent phase featuring the squalling of trumpet and tenor sax alongside some powerful ensemble playing, the drums now playing a more conventional role, but still given plenty of latitude to roam free.

“Wave Sad, Weave Slow” is a Rose / Kim collaboration which the drummer describes as “an expression of my sonic explorations on drum kit, each sound has a special relationship with a variety of detailed timbres and textures”. The mood is largely ambient, with the primary focus on colour and texture rather than rhythm,  and with the sound of Avgenicos’ muted trumpet prominent in the mix.

The trumpeter also features strongly on “Mirage Returns”, a Rose / Barker collaboration with its roots in an earlier Barker solo recording and another piece inspired by the drummer’s experiences of barefoot running. There’s a suitably ‘mirage’ like quality about this evocative, swirling music that seeks to express the “experience of time being stretched or contracted during long hill runs, where any sense of how much time has passed is obscured”.

Kim’s final compositional contribution, in conjunction with Rose, is “Here Again”, her interpretation of “Tasrum”, a traditional Korean rhythmic cycle. This piece also features the incisive electric guitar dissonance of the impressive Geddes, one of Kim’s frequent collaborators. Avgenicos also features strongly too, before the piece concludes with a passage of solo drumming. Kim is a phenomenally busy musician who is involved in at least ten bands, some of which contain other members of the Earshift Orchestra.

The album concludes with the Rose / Barker “Currents and Tides”, a companion piece to the opening “Chant 12” and another composition written for Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. The track commences with the sampled sounds of chants of protest, perhaps captured at the Extinction Rebellion event pictured on the album packaging. Musically we’re back in the world of ‘coiling’ with Barker’s drums lighting the path for the ensemble, with trumpet and tenor also lifting their voices in solidarity.

“Disruption!” represents a rewarding, if sometimes challenging, listen. Barker brings a unique perspective to the drum kit and Kim’s Korean roots help to ensure that she is a similarly distinctive player. Rose’s arrangements give the drummers a sympathetic framework to play in and the musicians of the Earshift Orchestra also acquit themselves well, and particularly Avgenicos and Geddes, who both feature as soloists.

The album’s environmental / political theme is particularly pertinent, and perhaps even more so for those living in the southern hemisphere. This aspect helps to give the music an additional bite and relevance, as emphasised by the XR “Welcome To The Rebellion” banner depicted on the album packaging. The album booklet also gives in depth insights into the inspirations behind the material and the compositional methods involved in its creation. This review has drawn heavily on these and appropriate thanks is due to Rose, Barker and Kim for their words as well as their playing. Thanks are also due to the Australia Council for the Arts for their support for the project.

Finally extra thanks must also go to Rose for his work in running the Earshift label, a vital outlet for contemporary Australian music.



blog comments powered by Disqus