At Platinum Mind we reviewed Devin Gray’s single, ’Pull to Refresh’ when the album was a future vision. Now that vision is here and out on Rataplan Records on 9th June.
Firstly, let’s talk about value – twenty-three tracks, twenty-one of them short but all gloriously different. Secondly, let’s talk drums – Devin has amazing kit and uses it impressively. Thirdly – let’s talk about talent – drummers are often the mainstay of a band, supportive, or soloing but putting out an album entirely of drum music might seem a challenge. Not for Gray. For Gray, putting out an album of drum music feels the most natural thing to do, and for the listener, it becomes clear why.
‘Most Definitely’ is an example of just how creative a musician can be with a set of drums and a few additions. Gray explores what he believes the world needs more of – sonic energy. In twenty-three tracks, mostly delivered at speed, Gray proves he is continually thinking outside conventional boxes in terms of percussive sounds and rhythm variations. The patterns interweave and create remarkable twists, and alterations of hue and volume that work together to form a mesmeric soundscape splashed with tonal colour and textural variation.
The creativity is astounding, and the tracks include barely-whispered sections to thunking, booming timpanic episodes. It totals just over an hour of engaging music.
Gray uses his recordings to relate emotions such as the loss of friends, and admiration for writers, musicians, and acquaintances. The album is a reflective vision of life so far, seen from Gray’s point of view. His personality shines through the tracks.
Some tracks to note are ‘Hunker Down’ with its gentle rolling rhythms coupled with precision, pin-point accurate time patterns, and the equally impressive ‘Soldier On Milford’, or the electronic vibes of ‘Digital Nomads’ and ‘Bad Wi-Fi’. ‘Pull To Refresh’ was the first single from the album and is a mix of clever polyphonic styling on manual and electric drums, creating a minute or so of powerful patterns.
On ‘Bad Wi-Fi’ the drums and electronic sounds weave together to create that irritation of a poor connection – complete with cut-out, and re-connecting. ‘Most Definitely’ – is the title track and possibly the most ‘Gray’ track with its multiple, varying rhythms that weave in and out of each other. Gray creates deep resonate passages and delicate rivulets of sound in turn. ‘Upstate Berlin’ is a sandbox of sounds, changing over a short period and creating interesting, mind-boggling patterns, while ‘Tailgate Lunches’ is crazy rhythms with a pattern repeated over voice-enhanced sounds. The track veers from crashing to quiet. In ‘Blackwell Magic there is an atmosphere created by the timpani drums and in ‘Hoi Polloi there are intricate, delicate patterns of sound interwoven and complex while ‘Digital Nomads’ is an almost continual drum roll interspersed with electronic enhancements and darkly nuanced deeper elements. ‘Crypto Punks is strange and eerily atmospheric while ‘Only The Poets (For Daniel Levine) is heavily improvised with intricate, changing patterns. ‘Doom Scrolling’ is darkly spiritual and there is a sense of searching for something unseen throughout the track.
‘Jack De Blues’ is wonderful, with its blues patterns and waves of sound while the two longer tracks offer the chance to dive deep into sonic exploration. ‘Tough Love’ sees a beautiful development of sound from gentle, barely-there whispers to thumping exhortations of noise. A delight. In ‘Soldier On, Milford’ there are what feels like the sounds of life, with creaks, scrapes, and breaks, to create 20 minutes of standout drum music.
‘Millennial Hotel’ is crashing and loud and ‘Vone It In’ closes the album with massive sound. Other tracks – ‘2077’, ‘Vone Call’, ‘Subscription Fatigue’, ‘Anthony Burroughs’, ‘Case By Case’, and ‘Data Pollution’ are all involve a wide range of sounds.
Gray achieves huge variation with his drums, electronics, and not least his mind, which is where all this energy comes from. This is no ordinary album – but then Gray has proved he is no ordinary musician.
If drums were living beings, they would place themselves in the hands of this masterful sonic storyteller and trust him to tell their story. The album is like an insight into Gray’s history and probably a glimpse of his future too – let’s hope the drum story continues to evolve in the hands of musicians like Gray. A standout album.