AMN Reviews: Tony Buck – Unearth (2017; Room40)

Many will recognize Tony Buck as the percussionist of The Necks, an Australian trio that performs long improvisions that build from sparse elements to slowly evolving repetitive themes and ultimately into trance-like walls of sound. Outside of that group, Buck has also been busy applying his signature form of experimentation to other efforts, including solo performances and recordings.

Unearth is a 51-minute solo studio recording of Buck at his apex, employing small percussion instruments (e.g., shakers, woodblocks, pieces of metal, bells, cymbals, and other objects) in addition to the drum kit, electric guitar, samples, field recordings, and electronics. Not surprisingly, the percussion takes the foreground throughout. But unlike the traditional notion of drumming, Buck does not provide steady rhythms, beats, or a groove. Instead, he builds textural edifices by striking, scratching, rubbing, and scraping various parts of his arsenal. The guitar is moody and complementary of these efforts, with disjointed chording and the use of extended techniques.

Similar to a Necks outing, there is a slow build to thick, busy constructs over the course of the track. The last 10 minutes of Unearth exhibit guitar strumming in a pseudo-post-rock style, as well as heavy use of cymbals and effects. This full, information-dense offering eschews melody and harmony, instead exploring combinations of rough-edged structures that Buck formulates into a sonic mass.

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