- By the time the ex-Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit died in January he had spent decades developing a distinctive approach to rhythm. Dubbed "E-T Rhythm" theory, this approach was "based on natural principles of movement… observed during his lifelong ethnological research into drumming," and followed "the behaviours of sticks and drums according to natural laws of gravity, distance, acceleration, rebound, and so on." This is according to the journalist John Payne, who, alongside the producer and Liebezeit collaborator Jono Podmore, is crowdfunding a book on the theory. Payne and Podmore had urged Liebezeit to write the theory down, but "he always replied he'd do it when he was too old to play the drums." He was playing right up until he died, so in his absence the pair turned to his collaborators for help.
Among them were Drums Off Chaos, a percussion group that formed around Liebezeit and his ideas in the '80s. For decades the group issued few recordings, so the Compass EP marks a change of tack, offering an introduction to Liebezeit's beguiling rhythmic world. Its utilitarian percussion tracks, each of which explores a single hypnotic idea, work as all-natural partner pieces to the electronic music of Burnt Friedman, another Liebezeit collaborator who releases this EP through his Nonplace label.
It's tempting to try to seperate these hypnotic grooves into blocks. "Clockwise Instinct," for instance, loops in groups of seven, while "Nine Out Of Nine" (unsurprisingly) loops in groups of nine. But Liebezeit disliked the Western musical convention of bars. (According to group member Maf Retter he used to say, "No music behind bars.") It's better to approach these tracks as flows of polyrhythm with no clear start or ending—a kind of rhythmic infinity pool to float in.
Aside from resemblances to some non-Western folk music, the results will chime with producers obsessed with their Euclidean Rhythm generators. This isn't stuff you could do with a computer, though—often the richness of acoustic timbre is the main attraction. On the jaunty "Antidote," bells and tom-toms deliver a bright cascade of semi-melody. "On Circles" indulges in jangling hi-end and smoky cymbal hits, while "Turn Off The Blue" is an ambient cool-off that swaps rhythm for rustling stasis.
A1 On Circles
A2 Clockwise Instinct
B1 Nine Out Of Nine
B2 Turn Off The Blue