Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations
Beat Music Productions
In a huge year for Mark Guiliana, the in-demand drummer, composer, beat-maker has started his own label, continued to guest and collaborate and co-create (including the excellent Taming The Dragon with Brad Mehldau under the name Mehliana) and simultaneously released two albums, two sides of the coin – I’ve already looked at My Life Starts Now which is wonderful, the composed set of pieces that showcase his skills as producer/beat-maker and song-shaper. The playing, of course, is wonderful, but My Life Starts Now was about the music as finished-piece and the way Guiliana got there and how (and when) he signed off on a finished piece.
This album is the flipside in a sense – still with some of the same sound, including his wonderful beat displacement as part of the hinge. But Beat Music’s Los Angeles Improvisations – as the matter-of-fact title part-explains is the end result of one day in L.A., Guiliana is at the kit – sometimes triggering found sounds and samples and snapshots of 80s drums, sometimes playing acoustic, sometimes mingling acoustic and electric drum sounds – Jeff Babko is on keys, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass and Troy Zeigler adds electronics. That’s it. And in one day – in what feels like one long, rolling session – the resulting album consists of 30 tracks caught in the moment, song-idea improvisations barely dusted off, hardly shaped – they run from just 12 seconds in length through to four minutes, most are little snippets and beat-ideas, between one and two minutes in length. Many of them are fabulous.
And you can of course forgive anything that doesn’t quite strike it right instantly – for it’s not only part of a bigger piece, a little jig-saw bit being made to fit, it’s easy to dismiss anything that doesn’t (quite) work because for the most part this does. It’s exciting and just a little bit challenging and full of ideas. And refreshing to hear these ideas as still embryonic moments.
Some of this feels like Flying Lotus stripped back and interpreted by garage-jamming jazz band, some of it hints towards a future sound that DJ Shadow never quite got to (if he’d kept searching on in the vein of The Private Press rather than going lazy in the studio and speed-dialling a few rappers to ruin things). Some of this sounds like ideas we might yet hear Guiliana use again, develop, reinterpret. As a standalone it’s good enough – but the excitement in this release is knowing that it’s just part of a busy period, a purple patch in creativity from one of the shining talents. It’s a little bookmark, a series of bookmarked moments. An aural save-the-date. And taken in tandem with the amazing moments on My Life Starts Now it’s an impressive effort from Guiliana. (Another).