atching Glenn Kotche back Wilco up from behind the kit is akin to observing a consummate orchestral percussionist; he is a paragon of restraint: there’s not a beat saved, skipped, or spared; all is delivered with the panache of a career waiter—fills, accents, and “extended techniques” brought to the stage under a sterling dome. Kotche obviously knows that it’s all about presentation; the smallest splash, tightest snare press, or rumbling floor-tom fusillade must be placed perfectly—struck, rolled, or thudded into a precise moment. Kotche delivers on all accounts, tastefully propelling the music into timelessness, nearly filling the shoes of his faves: The Band’s Levon Helm, Beefheart’s Drumbo.
Kotche solo affairs have been quite different, with the unbound drummer effecting rhythms from the snap, crackle and pop of a Sudafed packet, or conjuring seemingly multi-limbed polyrhythmic madness from the confines of the classic rock battery. Similarly, Mobile finds Kotche in the midst of a sort of rhythmic show-and-tell: there’s the Reichian synchronicity of “Clapping Music Variations,” which deftly balances typewriter twitter with orchestral bell bong; there’s an intriguing transliteration of Dreyblatt’s “excited strings” in the amusingly titled “Reductions or Imitations”—a study shorn of its question mark. “Projections of (What) Might” brings dancehall skitter to the skins: dry electronic pad perspiration mixed with organic cowbell clatter. The title track(s)—“Mobile Parts 1 & 2” and “Mobile Part 3”—are permutations on recurring themes, hammered into place in accordance with the aforementioned Dreyblattian design. “Mobile Part 3” provides the opportunity to unleash a bit, with cymbal, snare and bass drum delving into Bonzo’s “When the Levee Breaks” territory. All three “movements” make for provocative listening, with their constant evolution reminding a bit of Stewart Copeland’s Rumble Fish soundtrack. “Monkey Chant” is about as cut-and-dry as it gets, with Kotche straddling cock-rock drum solo—a la “Moby Dick”—and the trappings of extended techniques, which ostensibly are responsible for the bizarre growls, rattles, and whirrs which rise up out of the mix from moment to moment. The swan song, “Fantasy on a Shona Theme,” builds a piece out of the bings and bogs of bells, their tones hanging in air like parachutes of dispersed dandelion seeds.
Mobile shows Kotche not only as a part of a select group of informal percussionists, Chris Corsano and Tim Barnes (to name two), but also as a remarkably developed instrumentalist of immense resource: endlessly adaptable, versatile and, er, mobile.