So Percussion, the versatile quartet whose definition of “percussion” includes houseware items, electronics, and things that you or I would consider garbage, here joins forces with electric guitarist/vocalist Grey McMurray, half of the electric chamber group itsnotyouitsme. The result is simply one possible manifestation of a larger music-theater idea built around the theme of community and collaboration. Accordingly, the quartet sees Where (we) Live as a multi-media piece that can accommodate any number of different artists – dancers, visual artists, other musicians, etc.
This recording is essentially a song cycle, though unlike those of Schubert or Schumann, this one could easily come with a language advisory (for the song “Room and Board”). The opener, “This Place the Place,” stakes out the piece’s thematic territory – why do we call this place “the place”? – over a rhythmic, modular accompaniment comprised of live percussion and sound design. “Five Rooms Back” features some lovely Satie-esque piano, but the text early on mentions a panic attack and the piano is eventually overwhelmed by dissonant guitar and percussion, making for a convincing musical representation. That play of simple consonance and bruising dissonance also characterizes “Moat,” where McMurray’s wistful singing meets shattering bell-like sounds. “Strangers All Along” offers lush vocal harmonies over a glitchy but graceful rhythm track that borrows heavily from the EDM (electronic dance music) world. And the concluding “Thank You,” with its simple but cautionary text, is a soulful ballad that blossoms into expansive, charming group vocals, over some alarmed electric guitar playing and increasingly unsettled percussion. Where (we) Live effectively avoids the clichéd images of “home,” focusing instead on the darker idea of leaving one’s comfort zone.