“You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time.”
Desert Music, the debut EP from Los Angeles percussionist Ben Rempel, is a fresh, inter-genre exploration of time at different scales. Through a combination of minimalist percussion compositions and improvisation by an ensemble of distinctive musicians, Desert Music reflects on the grand, hostile, fragile, and rough beauty in Southern California’s deserts.
Though this EP is a debut, Ben Rempel has already embraced a wide array of musical practices early in his career. He has immersed himself in studies of contemporary western classical music, free improvisation, jazz, Brazilian music, music and dance of West Africa and its diaspora, and cross-cultural collaborations. All these influences manifest organically in Rempel’s compositions and improvisational style, and coalesce into an especially mature voice for a maiden voyage recording.
At the core of Desert Music are several rhythmic cycles, which are manipulated through improvisation, phasing, polyrhythms, swing, and modulation. In “Spheres” and “Horizons,” these cycles orbit one another in low drums and gongs. The compositions “Geologic” and “Coyote” each center around a provoking rhythm cycle and are expanded through open-ended improvisation. The four tracks flow together seamlessly as one continuous work.
Comprising the rest of the ensemble are violinist Keir GoGwilt (of Mark Dresser’s quintet), cellist T.J. Borden (of the Mivos Quartet), bassist Jordan Morton, and percussionist Amy Cadle (who collaborates with samba masters Ailton Nunes and Dudu Fuentes). Co-producer John Burnett was a vital collaborator throughout the editing process.
In the desert we are confronted with the vastness of the earth, exposed landscapes, and an incomprehensible scale of time and space that is not human, but geologic. This debut EP presents an artist whose musical vision is as expansive as the desert, and launches a career dedicated to the exploration of layers of time, like the layers of our planet’s long and mysterious history.