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Toparama by Pat Mastelotto and Tobias Ralph

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This release from 2014 features 57 minutes of percussive music.

Mastelotto (from King Crimson, the Crimson Projekct, and the Stick Men) and Ralph (from the Crimson Projekct, and the Adrian Belew Power Trio) are both drummers extraordinaire (Ralph also plays Rhodes keyboard). They are joined by: Markus Reuter (on touch guitar), Roy Powell (on Rhodes keyboard and Moog samples), Lorenzo Feliciati (on bass, keyboards, and strings), Tony Levin (on upright bass), David Rothenberg (on clarinet), Angelica Sanchez (on piano), Bernhard Wostheinrich (on soundscape), Bill Munyon and Leashya Padma Munyon (on vocals and samples), and Robert Fisher (on spoken words).

Obviously, percussion is the dominant instrument here, but that can be quite an understatement when talking about a pair of master percussionists. The beats are ultra complex, polyrhythmic, and emphatic. So intense are they that the tempos achieve a melodic stature on their own, crafting tunes of highly engaging definition.

The other (incidental) instruments tend to flesh things out, but often in almost invisible ways, so buried are these enhancements in the thundering array of rhythms. Sometimes the other instruments get the opportunity to shine briefly, before the beats swamp everything; on these occasions the melodic embellishments are quirky and hypnotic—as one would expect from a recording like this. The mesmerizing interplay achieved by the bass and keyboards raises the rhythms to a whole new level of dazzling beauty.

The vocals appear only in the last song and cannot be considered as lyrics, more as amusing observations.

These compositions are intensely intricate and multi-layered in their percussive threads. Beats cluster and pound, merging and interweaving to create lush vistas of alluring impacts. It would certainly be a mistake to call this music abstract, for the blending of beats and effects achieve a highly melodic character; experimental perhaps, but definitely not abstract. These tunes are powerful excursions that will enthrall more than just drum fanatics.

An intriguing and worthwhile release—really quite fun.

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