Man Forever: Ryonen

The Clear Realization

They [So] use all manner of electronics and embrace John Cage’s anything-is-music aesthetic (their unconventional instruments have included cacti), but perhaps most important they break with the musty formality that binds so much of the classical world, working with the likes of provocative electronic duo Matmos and adventurous jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas. In this context they stick to acoustic drums—setting aside programmed beats, tuned percussion, and digital processing—and they play with such rigor and precision that most rock drummers trying to follow along would end up wheezing and disoriented.

—The Chicago Reader

Man Forever is an exploratory percussion project helmed by John Colpitts (aka Kid Millions), one of New York’s most versitile and critically lauded collaborators and a founding member of Oneida. Since its inception in 2010, Man Forever has hosted an impressive list of guest performers, but few have been as specially qualified to perform Colpitts’ technically challenging meditative workouts as So Percussion, the United States’ premiere contemporary percussion ensemble. So Percussion has commissioned and premiered new compositions by Steve Reich and their interpretations of John Cage have revolutionized the legendary composer’s cannon. Following a collaborative performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in June of 2013, So and Colpitts entered the studio together to record Ryonen, two pieces that combine the former’s precision and ingenuity with the latter’s restless punk spirit. While previous Man Forever records were inspired by blissful, overwhelming confusion, Ryonen derives its power from its clarity and immediacy.

The two pieces on Ryonen are rhythmically seductive and instantly exciting while retaining the experimental legacy that Man Forever has cultivated over several albums and relentless touring. “The Clear Realization” is an exploration in polyrhythm performed on two drums sets, two sets of bongos (an instrument Colpitts rediscovered while performing with Yo La Tengo on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), a concert bass drum, snares, crash cymbals, and vocals. Each instrument is performing in a different time signature at the same tempo, creating a beat that is both propulsive and nonpredictive. “Ryonen” is more chaotic on the surface, but repetitions and rhythms hidden beneath the surface emerge with close listening. The drums are tuned to resonate with each other, creating a series of overtones that hover over the music and provide a baseline drone for the ensemble to harmonize with during the piece’s dramatic climax.

Colpitts continues to be one of the most in-demand drummers in New York. Throughout 2013 he toured as a member of Spiritualized, performed in duos with Greg Fox and Jim Sauter, recorded a record with Akron/Family, released an album with People of the North on Thrill Jockey, and performed with Rhys Chatham as a member of Oneida. So far in 2014 he has recorded an album with Rick Moody and is performing with William Basinski at the Ecstatic Music Festival in March. Man Forever will tour the US and Europe performing Ryonen.