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On Fillmore: Happiness of Living

by John Adamian on August 11, 2017

On Fillmore recorded this one, their fourth studio album, in Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian feel comes through strong. And a lot of other flavors seep in too. This sounds like an avant-garde samba school jam orchestrated by Ennio Morricone and Steve Reich with input from some otherworldly choir. Or imagine Olodum facing off with Krautrock groovesters Can. Percussion ensemble music can sometimes be on the cerebral side, with a polyrhythmic pile-up—threes against fours and threes against twos, andso on. And there are plenty of those permutations and cross-rhythms here, but Glenn Kotche (Wilco) and Darin Gray (Tweedy) make things alternately soulful, ethereal, groovy and complex. If you buy into the mind-body divide, this is music that bridges it pretty nicely. Some songs, like “Bota Fogo,” have a lurching and brutalist feel to them. Others, like “Espaço,” sound like clouds of angelic vocals drifting by. And then, on tracks like “Drums Equal Percussion,” Kotche gets busy with some serious exercises in shifting accents, offbeat phrasing and advanced rhythmic calculus. Thumb piano and mallet percussion add to the barrage of pitched pulsation. Gray plays some aggressive bass to compete with the force of the drumming. At other points, the grooves and soundscapes create a cinematic Rhythm Devils atmosphere. Kotche, Gray and guests do an admirable job of taking odd-time grooves, like on the 10-beat “Foli Ke,” and making them move with danceable grace. Album closer “Despidida Suspensa” is like a Brian Wilson vocal harmony feast that morphs into a spaghetti-western showdown scene.

Authors: John Adamian
Artist: On Fillmore
Album: Happiness of Living