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Frank Rosaly: Milkwork

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Thirty-six year old drummer Frank Rosaly lives in Chicago. He has worked with musicians from Chicago, New York, Europe and has his own quintet, Viscous. His physically gorgeous white solo LP Milkwork, from 2009, grew out of a renewed curiosity in the music of late 20th century classical composers while he was composing a group piece in which he was experimenting with contact microphones on cymbals. Not really turning on to an electronic sound until he discovered how he could “thoughtfully” integrate it into his own improvisations, he kept his instrumentation simple, maximizing the effects of what he could produce from microphones, oscillators and pedals.

The music in Milkwork addresses a simplicity that proves that playing the drums is not just about rhythm. It is about the topography of the trip the drummer takes…about how tonality changes in the touch of the skins. It is about how the drummer finds a tempo and transcends it, skating through a musical line, relying on his intuition to make one move after the other from traditional drumming to percussive drumming and back again. Rosaly’s pristine phrasing not only coalesces a variety of sounds but also disperses them.

When he flips the electronic switch, Rosaly changes the form of communication. What sounds like an accordion introduces another set of voices. Strange electronic sounds and often weighty action on the drums punctuate each other. The music no longer draws a palpable topographic map; the music paints imaginative pictures with multiple colors and intensities. Rosaly exercises his intuition accurately to mold the peculiarities of his homegrown electronic vocabulary to populate this solo recording event. The record closes with an even mix of acoustics and electronics, as if to count off the minutes to silence, where eventually electronic-ity sours and the acoustic drums re-emerge in solitude.

Originally Published