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Not Missing Drums Project - The Gay Avantgarde

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Artist: Not Missing Drums Project

Album: The Gay Avantgarde

Label: Leo

Review date: Apr. 15, 2002

If nothing else, I give the The Gay Avantgarde a high score for technique. The members of Germany's Not Missing Drums Project mix elements of modern composition, European improv, minimalism and romanticism, and the instrumental arrangements don't show any seams. As a demonstration of the NMDP's playing and orchestrating skills, The Gay Avantgarde is an unqualified success.

Still, my knee-jerk reaction to this album is so intense that it's making my entire leg ache. Ute Döring's operatic mezzo-soprano and Matthias Bauer's dramatic narration give the record a high-art sheen that annoys me. Also, the album is a tribute to Friedrich Nietzsche and most, if not all, of the narration consists of Nietzsche's texts. "Pretentious" is a word people often misuse to dismiss music they don't understand; it isn't the right word here, because the act of even making a record involves pretense. But I'm tempted to use it anyway.

The recording is meticulously arranged and engineered, however, from the well-placed Wagner samples to the Philip Glass-like repeating figures to the playful trombone solos, and the texts are carefully chosen. So the fact that this CD bothers me is my problem, not the artists'. If you're interested in hearing a 19th-century classical-style belter and a stern Teutonic baritone declaim philosophical texts over a variety of avantified textures, or if you're a fan of, say, the Vienna Art Orchestra and you're capable of filtering out Döring and Bauer's voices, you might just fall in love with The Gay Avantgarde.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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