Michael Gordon’s bracing Timber is a symphony of rhythms and textures coaxed, quite literally, from blocks of wood. A co-founder of the art-music collective Bang on a Can, Gordon may never have taken the directive in his group’s title quite so literally before. Seeking to clear his mind and cleanse his palette of the orchestral works he was writing, Gordon went on a tour to find the sparsest, simplest musical materials he could find. He settled on long slabs of a wood that, when hit, make an improbably resonant, full sound.
What he produced from this humble material is nothing short of astonishing; rippling, sinuous, and hypnotic, Timber is like shiatsu massage for the ears: a polyrhythmic bludgeoning of percussion that will recalibrate your body’s internal rhythms if you surrender to it. It is impossible to classify this music: It sounds like Detroit techno made by cavemen. Or a men’s-group drum-circle conducted in an abandoned lumber yard. It is endlessly stimulating and an inspiring case of what can happen when a venerated composer hits the “restart” button and follows a logical impulse to an illogical conclusion.