Review: Sam Price – Rubicon

There’s something deeply satisfying about hearing drums and electronics wired into eachother. Human limbs rap against the soft membrane of synthesiser textures. Fizzing chords fold themselves around the contours of the head and the chest. Snarls of static kick up off the cymbals, like layers of dust agitated by the impact. Snare rolls mimic the falter of lo-fidelity loops, with ghost hits disappearing into silence as melodies sink into dead air obscurity. Perhaps this satisfaction originates from my own growing intimacy with technology. It feels right that many acoustic actions should have digital consequences, with even the most delicate of tom drum strokes triggering signals that cascade through various wires and flashing interfaces. Apparently Rubicon was built upon Sam Price’s desire to play drums and electronics concurrently. And while there is definitely a percussion/electronic symbiosis at play, the interaction is also riddled with awkwardness – lapses in timing, abrasive distorted edges. On closer inspection, perhaps the interaction isn’t as seamless and amicable as I originally thought?

There’s also a mild claustrophobia to Rubicon. The drum kit feels as though it’s been stacked on top of itself, played with elbows pinned to the sides of the chest, resulting in little fidgets and flurries of activity rather than patient, free-flowing improvisation. The electronics are often caked in interference too, triggering images of frayed wiring wrapped haphazardly around cymbal stands and taped to the walls. And so while physical movement might be intertwined with those beautiful drones and dancing distorted patterns, it’s also severely restricted – not just because of the squeeze that Sam Price places on stereo space, but also because the autonomy of his actions starts to fall under question. As his 4/4 beat stumbles to keep up with the gentle loop on “Falling Slowly”, the electronics switch role from enabler to dictator. Suddenly, Sam is adherent to the electronics rather than vice versa. His snare drum thrashes to stay afloat upon the weird waters of “Zoning”, while those knotted arpeggios on “Marlowe” send his kit twirling into all manner of tangled syncopations, like some torturous sonic iteration of the game Twister. Who’s really in control here?