An exploration of tempo, time signature and intonation, Ryonen is the fourth official release from exploratory percussion-project Man Forever. Helmed by John Colpitts (aka Kid Millions of Oneida) and recorded with NYC-based percussion ensemble Sō Percussion, Ryonen stands out as Man Forever’s most introspective and meditative installment to date, utilizing silence and drone to place distinguishing distance between the individual beats and rattled instrumentation.
Where his prior releases were brooding, scattered affairs that focused largely on the disorienting powers of a swarm of caustic rhythms, Ryonen is far more focused. Here, Man Forever harnesses the power of repetitive drumbeat-drills and the misdirection of some innocuous silence and droning vocals to create a sort of synesthesia, blurring the lines between each piece’s individual components with clarity as yet unheard within Man Forever’s canon.
Finding its home appropriately on the A-side is “The Clear Realization,” its immediate coherency making it the more easy-to-swallow pill. The piece is an experiment in polyrhythms played on two drum sets, two sets of bongos, a concert bass drum, snares and crash cymbals, along with some brief flits of vocal accompaniment. While the entire ensemble is playing to the same tempo, each individual element is playing within a different time signature, creating a trippy, juxtaposed merger of unified chaos. Tapping ones toes along to any count is almost immediately disorienting, yet pulling back, ignoring the ever-enticing “1, 2, 3, 4″ and embracing the ensemble’s clustered approach, one finds no ill-fitted counterbalancing or clashing rhythms, but rather a beguilingly complex harmonic synchronicity.
“Ryonen,” on the other hand, gives more weight to an ominous quietude and elongated low-end rumbles. A significant counterbalance to its predecessor’s emphasis on rat-a-tats and various pitter-patters, the track starts out with a tribal, volcanic rumble and showcases little diversion for a solid eight minutes, simply increasing in magnitude and disarray as an ominous drone builds beneath the surface. That drone is the focus of this piece, for which the individual drums have been tuned to resonate with one another. Each hit adds its own lingering reverberation, contributing and calling further attention to a haunting drone that lingers alongside the piece’s core components. At roughly fifteen minutes in, a vocal line begins to harmonize with said drone, creating a strange serenity that is both lavish and chilling.
No one’s to say it can’t be both, but Ryonen‘s scale tips more toward educational than entertaining—highlighting the all-too-seldom-remembered harmonic power of a percussion-centric composition. Both tracks have a certain clockwork-functionality to them that’s fun to pick apart. Its individual components rough-and-tumbling like an epileptic bumrush of snap-crackle polyrhythms, pounding forth like miniature gears, snapping and locking against one another with pinpoint synchronicity. Yet it’s only in that seemingly jumbled, claustrophobic functionality that the stripped down “tick-tick-tick” rhythm is born. That, in essence, is Ryonen, for which a million little complexities collide to form a simpler whole.