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Album Review

John Belcher is a rhythm scientist whose album The Sound According to John somehow combines the mathematics of patterns and phasing (à la Steve Reich) with the minimalist vocal stylings of the Last Poets (though not as confrontational). Most of the tracks are either percussion or voice, generally not both. However, the same concepts of rhythm and time are applied regardless. The vocal pieces are clearly multi-tracked, beginning with looped vocalisms that establish a base melody and rhythm before the spoken text enters. "Hide and Seek — Further Adventures of a Search for Self" and "Just Say _ No _" both feature direct, righteous, and thought-provoking commentary, but "Half of My Time" might be the highlight of the vocal-dominated pieces. Here, repeated phrases set up a base rhythm. Then, Belcher takes those elements and layers them again, but stretches the time such that the base rhythm phrase repeats several times in the time it takes for a single utterance of the stretched phrase. At the same time, he's modifying the melodies and making you think about what he's saying. It's much easier to listen to than describe, although Belcher's liner notes are very helpful in explaining exactly what's going on. It's that kind of polyrhythmic experimentation that dominates the percussion pieces, where cycles of different lengths are played on different instruments, and the way those cycles combine and interact are what makes these pieces so interesting. The set ends with "Pandora's Revenge," a swinging departure from the rest of the album with congas, drum kit, and tenor sax. It's a loose romp that's a perfect way to end the album after denser compositions.

Belcher, J.: The Sound According to John, John Belcher
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