Ubiquitous drummer, avant composer and producer Billy Atwell presents this double CD of new works from 2006 ("Dos") and a bonus CD archiving film scores, commissioned compositions and compulsive sound art from 1998-2005. Nearly two hours of pure Atwellian non-silence.
On the net:
From the liner notes by Daniel House (CEO of C/Z Records and former bassist of Seattle's Skin Yard):
Having Billy Atwell ask me to write the liner notes for his new CD is both an immense honor and a seriously nerve-racking mind-fuck. An honor because I consider Billy a dear and meaningful friend; a mind-fuck (and an honor as well) because I consider him one of the most innately gifted composer/musicians that I have ever known, and it’s important to me that I find words that can do justice to the music that he’s created here.
Let me first say that this is not quick-fix music. It is not obvious; there are no ‘vocals’ to speak of; it is definitely not what you would think of as pop.
This is music with incredible depth, and requires dedication on the part of you – the dear listener – to dig in and really engage: it is not meant to exist in the background. These 35 tracks span a vast breadth of color and emotion, and is not easy stuff to pigeonhole. You need to listen to a number of tracks to fully begin to understand, and you owe it to yourself to do just that.
What has always struck me about Billy’s compositions is how remarkably visual they are. This is music that belongs in film, with many of the tracks conjuring potent visual images on a grand scale. He uses sound like paint on canvas, crafting dark and lush filmic soundscapes that bring to my mind the works of Bill Laswell, David Torn and Cliff Martinez. Billy sounds like them as much as any of them sound like each other, which is to say hardly at all, but the common thread is that all of these artists paint with sound, and seem to have a color palette that exceeds the traditional boundaries of conventional music.
Like a great bottle of wine, this is music that needs to breathe. With each sip subtle complexities emerge, and with each sip – if you are paying attention to the delicacies and nuance –you will discover layer upon layer of color and texture, darkness and light.
Many of these compositions are wistfully melancholic (She Still Sleeps Here, Tumbler, Prophet); some of them are dark & edgy (The Black Ride, P.S.A., Different Channel [Same War], Fresh Crayons); others are thoughtful, sweet, and even playful (Daughter Of Mine, Hall Pass). It’s all evocative material, and from the entirely biased place where I sit, it’s a little intimidating to realize that all of this came from this one man with more talent and range than many bands display in an entire career.
Yes, Billy is a bit of a chameleon, not because he’s trying to be clever or because he feels the need to show the scope of his abilities, but more so because he is – like his music – one complicated motherfucker. I don’t believe he would be able to sit still long enough to be content with the limitations of any self-imposed formula. He has to keep creating, and the stuff that goes on in his head spans the gamut and accordingly, so does his music.
One remarkable fact is that he played all the instruments (guitars, basses, keyboards, programming, drums, percussion – which includes tabla, doumbek, bodhran, udu, assorted frame drums, and an African talking drum) and engineered everything as well. He doesn’t use any pre-made loops – this is Billy, every note and beat. This is (in the most literal sense of the word) ‘soul music’ – not in terms of genre, but more in terms of emotional/personal connectedness. These are more than songs – they are in essence more like an appendage. Consider this CD an in-depth conversation of sorts, a little one-sided perhaps, but Billy has a lot to say, and has managed to convey a great deal using one of the most universal and pure forms of communication on the planet.
So sit down, open an outstanding bottle of red, settle in, push ‘play’ and close your eyes. Take it in and see where it takes you. Clearly I am fond of Billy’s music and consider this a special treat. I hope you find a similar connection and feel the same need to share this gift that Billy has shared with all of us.
~ Daniel House
February 4, 2007