Not Without Risk by Byron Metcalf “Dr. Bam’s Music,” 2001 http://www.byronmetcalf.com Fans of Steve Roach will recognize the name of Byron Metcalf from last year’s collaboration album, The Serpent’s Lair. Metcalf, who like Roach lives in Arizona, is a specialist in shamanism, shamanic percussion and trance drumming. He’s both a musician and a psychologist, who explores “transpersonal and shamanic methodologies.” Here on Not Without Risk, Metcalf and friends (many of whom also worked on The Serpent’s Lair) send forth a set of eight percussion-filled pieces into the electronic aether. That wily coyote Steve Roach also shows up here and there on this album, contributing his characteristic desert drones and “serpent groove alchemy.” Before I talk about the music, I feel the need to comment on shamanism on CD. Shamanism depends on live performance, the drum ceremony, the words and atmosphere and culture where it belongs. Here on metallic plastic, Metcalf’s rhythms are, by the nature of the medium, removed from the context and placed in the rather non-shamanic atmosphere of someone’s dull urban apartment. Sometimes, with other albums, shamanism is “packaged” as entertainment. So I ask myself, how should I listen to this? Is it right, or respectful, to listen to ritual sounds outside a ritual context, even as background music while I’m at work? I have no personal connection to shamanism and I know only a little about shamanic practice, so am I treating Metcalf’s music right if I don’t dance or enter into another state of consciousness? Am I permitted to enjoy it just as pure music? These are some of the questions which Not Without Risk inspires in me, the listener. For now I’ll just talk about the sounds. Irrespective of ritual considerations, this album is good stuff. It begins with a powerful drum session, the first and title track “Not Without Risk.” It continues loudly for a couple more tracks before settling into mysterious nocturnal rattling, tooting, whispering, and slow beats (track 4, “Medicine Story” and track 5, “Spirit Gathering.”). The pace picks up again with track 6, “Dark Brew,” and track 7, “Clan Travelers,” which chugs along with a steady rhythm for about 10 minutes. Then for the last track there’s a major change of pace. This piece is credited to Ron Oates, rather than Byron Metcalf. Throughout the album up to this track, the drums have ruled, and melody and tone have been minimal. But here, in “Light from a Burning Bridge,” the drums fall to a soft tapping, and floating, melancholy, wistful minor chords take over. The title is poignant, and made even sadder by events that Metcalf and Oates, when they made this music, could not foresee (light from burning skyscrapers). It’s a moving finale to a 74-minute shamanic sound journey. (Graphic design note: I found the lettering on this album just about unreadable, tiny dim type against a busy red background. I had to squint closely just to find out the track titles.) HMGS rating: 9 out of 10 Hannah M.G. Shapero 10/20/01
To purchase this recording and get more info, soundclips, etc.
CLICK ON ARTIST'S NAME ABOVE
OR . . .
Please visit my BUY IT E.E.R. NOW INDEX PAGE
Please try my brand spankin' new
EER and AMAZON.com QUIK-LINKs
buyer's guide to recommended music.
go to my LINKS page and find the vendors' section.