“God is a Drummer” is virtuoso percussionist Trilok Gurtu’s twentieth solo album, the latest addition to the colossal discography accumulated over his accomplished career. Here he continues to present his philosophy of a unique seamless fusion of funky electric jazz, world music and something else not quite tangible. “My music is my music everywhere and I’m the way my music sounds”.
“Josef Erich”, one of a few tributes here to artists who are beloved to and have inspired Gurtu over the years, starts the show. It has a polished and slick jazz fusion signature with tablas, electronic percussion, Latin keyboard arpeggios and a purring thick creamy fretless bass.
Next is the pure tabla attack of “Connect”. The first of four tabla interludes dotted throughout the album, the others named ‘Connecting’, ‘Still Connecting’ and finally ‘Connected’, each time increasing in length and intensity.
“Obrigado” is exuberant with joyous almost spiritual singing accompanied by percussive vocals with angular drums and synthy bursts reminiscent of late 80s electro-funk which slightly dates it a little. Stand out track “Holy Mess” hangs on a hard funky riff. And it’s a beast of a track with skittish rhythms and shifting tectonic plates of sound.
The poignant and emotional “Madre” lowers the tempo and the sonic intensity. Through keyboard washes and the sympathetic tabla pattering, violin and voice connect and entwine. “Samadhan” is also beautiful, the warm but mournful trumpet motif is doubled by voices and violin. Later, Latin keyboard shapes add a bit of spice to the mostly balladic structure.
Splashes of backward effects introduce “Indranella” then it’s drums and more drums topped with disciplined percussive vocals. The closer, “Try This”; the spectacular and complex melody lines are expansive but also constrained by the dominant drums and rigid but groovy bass.
God is a drummer and the drummer is god here. Percussion doesn’t just establish the rhythmic structure, it is at the forefront, providing the melody and the character of the tracks. Probably the most interesting element to this is how the often hidden percussive properties of other instruments and the voices are released too. While maybe this album doesn’t really add anything particularly new to the well-established Trilok Gurtu paradigm, it’s still very impressive and enjoyable. It is another affirmative reflection of Gurtu’s exciting and open-minded vision of music.