I almost started off with telling you how much I love pure percussion records, but I think I’ve done that recently–perhaps it was the last time I reviewed an album from Julian Gerstin. Instead, I’d love to ask you a question: have you ever linked, in your mind, a specific piece of music with a hi-fi component? I’m sure it’s happened to me at least a hundred times, but not recently.
Julian Gerstin’s Littoral Zone arrived almost the same day as the new Volti Audio Razz, so naturally it became the first choice during the break-in period. That was several days ago, maybe a whole week, and I’m still listening to Littoral Zone through the Razzes. No other recording has snuck in. They’re such a natural match, a dynamic and sensitive horn speaker with some gorgeous percussion pieces that Gerstin has sifted and retrieved through his years of playing music from Cuba and Ghana and the Balkans.
These are simple percussion compositions, not wild, sprawling drum circle sessions that you might hear from the likes of Mickey Hart or David van Tieghem or even Shelley Manne. In most cases, you might even believe that Julian Gerstin is playing everything at once, live, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. While there’s plenty of air and space around these numerous drums, shakers, rasps, bells, wood, wheelbarrows, rice cookers, espresso makers, oil cans–well, you get the idea–it’s a compact presentation. Perhaps this intimacy is due to the subject matter, since Gerstin has subtitled this album Percussion for mollusks and each song gets its title from the scientific names of the aforementioned critters.
Delivered by the Volti Audio Razzes, Littoral Zone is a monumental feast of interesting sounds, all over the room, differing tempos and stunning deep bass energy and just the slightest and wispiest sounds of motion through the air. Julian Gerstin has ensured this music is so much more than a mere beat–he has a gift for pulling actual melodies from his collection, and occasionally he gets an assist from Anna Patton’s clarinet or Steve Rice’s marimba. But most of this is one man, precise and meticulous, who knows how to extract an encyclopedia of sound from the most unlikely of stationary objects and flat surfaces. Highly recommended.