So Percussion is a group of four young musicians who have not only recorded pieces of music created by Steve Reich (Drumming) and Bang On A Can founder David Lang, but have also collaborated with both Björk and Matmos in a live setting. Amid The Noise is the debut album from the quartet, and despite being a release where the group enlisted lots of overdubbing and sampling (mainly to stretch out their rhythmic ideas even further), it's much more subdued and sparse than one might expect.
Considering their performance of the aforementioned Drumming, I know that I was thinking the foursome might throw lots of polyrhythms and other unique techniques out on their first batch of original material, but the group instead seems intent on going the ethereal route here. After a hazy opening track entitled "June," "White" picks things up ever-so-slightly with distorted chimes and clattery beats. Over the course of four minutes, the beat changes hardly at all, while the timbral sounds of the chimes are explored as feedback threatens to push them into harsher places.
Melodically, "Work Slow Life" might be one of the more dynamic tracks on the release as more repetitive beats wrap around some humming bass, vibes, and filtered pipe bursts that dance around in asymmetrical ways. Another outstanding track is the understated "What The Hell," where snappy snare hits shuffle between speakers while electric piano and melodica provide a warm and lush melodic foundation. "Go" sticks out in a good way too, with toy piano, bowed marimba, and more melodica creating one of the more dense pieces on the release.
Unfortunately, many of the tracks on Amid The Noise feel a bit more underdeveloped. There's definitely an attention to detail in the recording of the release, and while the group definitely has a good ear for nice sounds, pieces like the bland "September" (where filtered hand percussion meanders with drones for almost five minutes), "February," and "Fire Escapes" all sound like they have the makings of something interesting, but never really develop into much more than a short motif stretched into five minutes. When the quartet hits their mark, it makes for downright lambent moments, but like most debuts, the release also has its stumbling points.
In addition to the CD, there's also a bonus DVD with the release that contains a video for each song by Jenise Treuting. Instead of working like a typical music video, each song is simply backed by a single-shot perspective from a single vantage point in a city in real time. The result is something oddly compelling and voyeuristic, watching people go about their every day activities as the music plays out. In and of themselves, the video bits aren't very compelling, but in combination with the music (which itself seems to be enhanced by the imagery) become sort of a Koyaanisqatsi-lite. Not quite essential, Amid The Noise definitely has it's moments.