Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Random Touch creates an improvised, polyrhythmic, no-drums percussion orchestra

February 20, 2010

Random Touch - Turbulent Flesh VinylI honestly cannot remember when Random Touch‘s Turbulent Flesh landed on my doorstep. It could have been as far back as April of 2009, although I highly doubt that. Either way, I pulled out the vinyl and slapped it on my record player without knowing what was going to happen. It’s fitting that the release seemed to appear on my desk, because the whole release seems to have been piped in from another dimension.

The three members of Random Touch (who have been together an extremely impressive 38 years) made good on their band’s name with Turbulent Flesh, their eleventh release. They set out to create an all-percussion album without using drums. They used found sound (pots, lids, saws, glass things, what sounds like an opened piano, oil drums, tools, wood blocks, just about any other metal or plastic thing that makes a noise when you hit it) to create improvised rhythm collaborations. Some of them have a sort of flow, as in “Finding the Sun Rise” and “No More than a Taste.” Some of them sound like dropping a cabinet full of silverware (“Sudden Intuition”).

By the time the second side came around, the initial shock of listening to a fully-percussive, amelodic, improvised collection of tunes had worn off, and I found myself engaged in the sound. “By Hand By Foot” actually had me waiting to see what would happen next, which is a pretty good endorsement of quality. I won’t be rocking out to “By Hand By Foot” in my car any time soon (even if it wasn’t on vinyl), but as an experimental art piece, it’s pretty successful. The polyrhythms (because that’s what this album is: a gigantic expression of polyrhythms) fit together in an interesting way and held my interest.

Random Touch’s Turbulent Flesh will go down as the strangest thing I’ve ever reviewed, but it will not go down as the worst. The members of Random Touch do have a chemistry, and even though they’re using it in odd and strange ways, songs like “Traversing the Now” and “By Hand By Foot” genuinely feel like compositions. There are tunes here that are simply bizarre, but with an open mind, not a tune here is unlistenable (except maybe “Sudden Intuition,” which I swear is the interpretation of a headache). If you like experimental music, this is squarely in your department. Pick it up.

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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