Booker Stardrum CRATER [NNA138]LP, Digital
Release Date: July 2, 2021
02 Fury Passage
04 Steel Impression
05 Squeezing Through A Tube
06 Parking Lot
07 Yellow Smoke
09 Walking Through Still Air
NNA Tapes is thrilled to present brand new music from percussionist and composer Booker Stardrum. “CRATER” is the artist’s third full-length album on NNA, beginning with 2015’s “Dance And” cassette, and followed up by the 2018 limited edition vinyl release “Temporary etc.” The Los Angeles and New York-based musician has spent years developing his sound both as a solo artist, a frequent collaborator and improviser, as well as a member of avant-garde rock unit Cloud Becomes Your Hand. Stardrum’s unique musical syntax is firmly rooted in the worlds of electronic music and free jazz, but also gathers inspiration and concepts along the way from the wide array of styles that lie between.
As with the majority of Stardrum’s works, percussion is the epicenter, the nucleus from which all else grows. But the music splinters off and transforms from there, growing and evolving into the distinctive final form that is Stardrum’s solo work. Melody plays a prominent role as well, but it’s journey feels dictated and influenced by the unpredictability and spontaneous, human fluidity of the percussive action. “CRATER” is the sum of countless dynamic, highly active, moving components. Not just percussive phrases, but melodies, textures, sound, noise, and the cracks and crevices of vacant space between these bodies. Stardrum’s creative approach is a multi-tiered process – ideas discovered during improvisation feed into live performances, which then fuel compositional concepts, cycling back and forth until the final arrangements emerge. Another important piece of this process is collaboration. Both inspiration and sounds were provided in varying capacities by Stardrum’s musical peers and close friends, whether they performed in-studio, or provided the artist with source material to then be sampled and processed into the structure of the tracks. The foundation of “CRATER” was recorded in-studio with long-time collaborative partner John Dieterich (Deerhoof), who also handled the final mixes and mastering. These recordings were then further dissected by Stardrum in a solitary headspace through digital editing processes, eventually revealing the nine individual pieces that make up the album. A sustained tension carries the listener from track to track, which plays out like a narrative structure using a purely sonic language. The result is an overall sound that feels expansive and immersive, where the listener can truly feel held and embraced inside the music that Stardrum has created. Through deep listening, one can feel contained in this sound world, with enough dimensionality inside to move around freely and explore one’s surroundings.
As “CRATER” unfolds, Stardrum builds up an incredible range of dynamics, from crystalline, ringing high-end timbres to deep, churning sub-bass currents of tone, then back up through hissing jets of static air that are released back into the album’s atmosphere. A torrent of microscopic, staccato musical gestures collide and coalesce into a singular whole, while jagged and angular sounds coexist harmoniously with their smooth, polished counterparts, creating an auditory balance and swaying symmetry. This harnessing of chaos in the sonic sense is perhaps reflective of the real-time chaos unfolding before us in the world today, born out of a need to process and utilize the looming unknown into our creative pursuits. Channeling this instability into art is perhaps one of the purest forms of triumph that an artist can manifest. This is not to say that “CRATER” is pure disarray; there are moments of tranquility and one-ness that are grounded and stable, yet still sonically and emotionally kinetic, showing us that through acceptance, chaos is not bound to darkness alone. The album possesses an emotional ambiguity that oscillates between the strenuous, troubled notions of anxiety and fear, to the lighter, elated tones of peace and clarity, while also embracing the space between these two poles of the human psyche. Instead, much like existence itself, “CRATER” moves through the full range of emotional space with enough organic elasticity to reach all corners of the spectrum. The notions of “electronic” and “acoustic” become irrelevant as Stardrum is able to embody both modes of operation with skill and finesse, giving “CRATER” a sculptural quality that feels less about the individual parts that go into it, but more about genesis of the larger whole that these components ultimately create.