Grand Gestures for Piano & Drums
Dialectical Imagination — The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture (Atma Nadi, 2017)
The piano-drums duo of Dialectical Imagination is all about chasing a big sound, but not in a noisy way.
Eli Wallace (also of the Bay Area trio Sound Etiquette — who play tonight at Octopus Literary Salon, incidentally) provides jittery and hammering piano laced with jazz and classical elements. It’s like heavy, elegant drapery crashing down on your head. That’s paired with the thunderous but sure-handed drumming of Rob Pumpelly, formerly of prog band miRthkon.
“Angel and the brute” is a good way to describe both sides of the music — it gushes lushly in one moment, then screams with adrenaline-rush urgency.
The 12-minute “Sky in Eye Free of I” is a good example. It opens with some sophisticated, jazzy dabbling — Pumpelly on brushes, even — that soon begins to speed up and unravel. By minute 8, Wallace is stabbing mercilessly at the bass notes while Pumpelly, now using drumsticks, batters away deftly.
“Immutable Light” is a power play, with Wallace sternly hammering away for a dramatic opening and Pumpelly taking a strong solo full of toms rolls and cymbal crashes, in a style closer to serious classical percussion than metal-like thrash. “Rungs” is another good example of high-energy bobbing and weaving, possibly the most exhilarating track on here.
One dial down the notch in intensity is the jittery “Turnabout,” where both players show tasteful restraint during Wallace’s hyperactive splashing.
“Deepest View’s Horizon You” starts out describing vast, mysterious caverns, then dissolves into a lyrical and downright pretty ending for the album.
If you buy the album in physical form, there’s a fun twist: It comes on “faux cassette” — a USB drive in a cassette-shaped housing. You can also download and stream the album on Bandcamp.