Mossy Cobblestone is a rewarding listen and one that challenges our senses while encouraging our ears and minds to seek more from the sounds we so often gravitate towards.
Grid City Magazine receives a lot of records for review consideration. More than I can honestly stay on top of. More often than not, the music I’m fortunate to receive word on fits within one of many familiar parameters. Variations on time-tested themes. I’m happy with that. I love hearing new music in whatever form it takes. But every so often, I get blindsided by something so unique, so different from everything else I’ve heard recently. Such is the case with Mossy Cobblestone, the debut album from percussionist Martin Daigle.
I first became familiar with Daigle as the drummer for Moncton’s Les Moon Tunes. The group’s self-titled debut blew my socks off when it was released last year and continues to hold its own, confidently occupying its own space among the many albums released last year, anywhere. With his solo debut, Daigle continues this thread in his own way with a collection of contemporary compositions so uniquely their own they merit little comparison to anything else, in my orbit at least.
Mossy Cobblestone features seven tracks, two of which are remixed versions from two of the first five. But that’s not to say they warrant any less attention, because the world Daigle has created here is one full of unexpected turns and pleasant surprises no matter what the context may be.
To set the stage or perhaps to help understand where he’s coming from on this release, it’s important to know Daigle is a doctoral candidate in contemporary percussion at McGill University. In some situations this could mean one of two things. First, it could be a warning of sorts, or an indicator that what he has created may be a bit much for some ears. Or, as a second option, it could mean we’re in for a self-indulgent journey into the rehearsal room hammerings of someone with more drums and noise makers than anyone should have access to. Thankfully, Mossy Cobblestone fits neither of these categories. Instead, Daigle presents a series of compositions that are as easily enjoyable as they are alluring. It goes without saying, rhythm is at the heart of Mossy Cobblestone. But what makes this recording work so well are the pairings of rhythm and voicings presented.
Mossy Cobblestone begins with layed of human voices, or Konnakol – the art of performing percussive syllables vocally – a technique that traces its origins to Southern India. As various instrumental tones begin to appear, it becomes immediately obvious we’re in for a wild ride.
Showcasing interpretations of work by composers Benjamin Findley, Casey Cangelosi, Glenn Kotche and Andy Akiho, whose work makes two contrasting appearances, Daigle presents the listener with a very broad overview of contemporary percussive compositions, each challenging, but also accessible to our ears. The work not only serves to highlight his coordinated independence and physicality as a musician, but also his vast appreciation and understanding of percussion’s wide ranging influence.
If I was to try and find a universal thread running between these tracks – the thing that loosely links them all together – the most defining characteristic to my ears present on Mossy Cobblestone would have to be the use of counterpoint, percussively speaking, that is.
The magic of counterpoint phrasing – two or more melodies that work to compliment each other – is often the distance a composer chooses to place between these tonal structures. While Mossy Cobblestone isn’t without melody, Daigle’s choice of compositions each use counterpoint as a tool for rhythmic construction. Time signatures upon contracting time signatures that connect…and then drift apart, only to return to the “one” after an exhausting spiral, nearly impossible to count. This technique helps give Mossy Cobblestone a depth all its own and for the rhythmically curious, it keeps our ears and our minds engaged as we seek to define the flow and of each new phrase using our own appreciation and understanding of music as a guide.
Though most likely created as a step forward in Daigle’s current doctoral pursuit, Mossy Cobblestone is a rewarding listen and one that challenges our senses while encouraging our ears and minds to seek more from the sounds we so often gravitate towards.