CD Review

Ever wonder what would happen if Tortoise percussionists Dan Bitney, John Herndon and John McEntire ditched such pesky appurtenances as guitar, bass, brass, etc., and went off on their own with nothing but their sticks and stuff on which to thwack said implements? I know I have. Now the mystery and speculation are answered by Bumps, a 23-track seminar on the manifold pleasures of rhythm.

As you might expect from nuanced, highbrow drummers like these Chicago vets, Bumps goes way beyond the boom-bap—not that there's anything wrong with sticking to the boom-bap, but monomania gets old after a while. Instead, Bumps visit several ports of call on Planet Drum, making you reassess your (irrational) disdain for drum solos. The trio go off on their kits and toys like young Art Blakeys, John Bonhams and Billy Cobhams. McEntire is a master of procuring optimal drum sounds; his vaunted skills have never been more apparent than they are here. With the longest track clocking in at 2:13 and the shortest at 19 seconds, Bumps changes things up with a bracing swiftness. The prevailing styles are funk and jazz, but the threesome find myriad variations and deploy many different tempos within those parameters. But it's "Tryplemeade Gorsmatch" that really snags your attention, as its mutated cellphone ringtone/gamelan motif ripples through an ominous kettle-snare-drum boom-boom-crash figure, conjuring images of unfathomable emergency situations. Put it on your MySpace page and inspire fear and respect.

Besides being a musical feast in its own right (seriously, these are some of the most robust-sounding beats I've ever heard), Bumps also serves as a beggar's banquet for sample hounds looking to bolster their rhymes with killer blaps. If they weren't such humble dudes, Bumps could've called this disc Rapper's Delight without causing much outrage.


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