Sunday, October 4, 2009

77 Drums

I realise that I have already posted about The Boredoms (8 September), and that, officially speaking, today’s album is another of theirs. But, in reality, they only make up three seventy-sevenths of the band here and, in any event, 77 Boadrum is such an astonishing piece of work, that it was impossible not to write about it.

The name 77 Boadrum is itself quite a clever play on words. It partly derives from the name of the core musicians themselves, the Boredoms; and partly from the fact that main act here is the mass off 77 drums that play, without taking a moment to catch their breath, throughout this incredible 100 minute piece; and partly from the way that the drums were arranged in a massive boa-like coil on the grass of the New York park where this was performed and recorded.

There are, I gather, some fairly famous drummers here although, not surprisingly, few of them meant anything to me, other than Number 77, who is Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt (21 September) and Numbers 5, 56 and 69 who are Jesse Lee, Lizzy Bougatsos and Tim Dewit from Gang Gang Dance (27 September).

The 77 drums are joined by the other members of the Boredoms, who add a few vocals and electronics, including a thing called a Sevena, which consists of seven lap steel guitars, mounted on a huge vertical stand, and struck by sticks and hammers.

The performance began at 7.07 PM on 07/07/2007 and, whether you believe in the significance of the number seven or not, the significance of the music is incontestable. The sound is huge, the achievement even huger.

The music is structured into large sections that fall into two main parts, all of which connects seamlessly, building in and out of each other to make a work of extraordinarily epic proportions, a huge journey of sound that covers a colossal and ever-changing terrain.

The work opens with sticks on cymbals, which are soon punctuated with massive unison beats every couple of seconds, taking us, it seems, into a world of primal ritual.

But it takes us into many other places, too – like the hair-raising noise of the whole 77 drums going hell-for-leather, or the march-like rhythms that come and go, like a sonic army claiming the earth as its own. There are moments that sound like an awesome, frightening train, chugging past, carrying all the debris of the world as its cargo. There are rousing shouts from the band’s core – sometimes, it seems, giving new cues to the driving beat, sometimes adding yet another few volts to the steamroller of sound.

There’s a small battery of electronic noise that enters and exits from time to time, sometimes in drones, sometimes in massive symphonic chords, always reinforcing and underlining the relentless beats of the drums.

There’s a long passage at the beginning of Part Two where we again hear the sound of 154 sticks on 77 cymbals, now rising, now falling, hurling like the waves of a violent sea, sometimes surging in a crescendo so big that you feel it will drown you, until it all eventually gives way to a kind of twisted lyricism on sliding, slithering electronics - boa-like.

Towards the end, the music stirs into an incredible march, pounding away with more and more determination, beneath a calling, chanting song from the vocals – summonsing you, perhaps, to join this gargantuan army as it marches on and on into ever new landscapes of sound, with exciting shifts of harmony and a relentless, uncompromising beat. It all builds into a massive chorus of noise where you feel the stars and planets themselves are marching along to the music, unable to resist its call. But then ultimately everything is pulverised by the sheer force of the drums, and transformed into a thick sludge of sound where everything merges and, at last, finishes.

The whole thing is performed with an incredible unity of purpose and an exceptional cohesion of effort and sound. Any passage of this music is remarkable, but to sit down and just listen to the whole thing in one go is unlike anything else you could ever hope to experience in music.

77 Boadrum is not easy to get. It comes in a pretty lavish presentation, with a hardcover book full of colour photos, plus a shortish DVD about the performance itself but, even so, at $133 US from Amazon, it was pretty pricy. But it’s a limited edition of a one-off performance of an absolutely amazing piece of music, and I don’t regret one cent of its cost.

Thanks to Lucas for putting me onto this. It is, quite simply, phenomenal.


  1. The Sevena was played by Eye but was built(and tuned throughout the performance) by Shinji Masuko, who also fronts an incredible rock band from Japan, "DMBQ".

  2. Thanks so much for the DMBQ tip-off ... just did a little bit of research - sounds an amazing band. I'll be scouring Melbourne's CD shops tomorrow to see what I can find!