Jeremy Rose & The Earshift Orchestra featuring Simon Barker & Chloe Kim

Disruption! The Voice of the Drums (Earshift)


Everything about this project is unusual. Jeremy Rose’s compositions, for instance, were reverse-engineered from ideas first espoused by Simon Barker and Chloe Kim on their respective albums of solo drums. These were so complete in themselves that Rose’s challenge was to find how to contextualise the ideas without smothering them in extraneous instrumentation. His ingenious solution, in part, was to create backdrops for the drumming that sometimes don’t even adhere to the rhythms being played.

Simon Barker, Chloe Kim and Jeremy Rose. Photos: Prudence Upton.

Obviously we aren’t talking about those bludgeoning drum solos that champion brash athleticism and a very narrow definition of virtuosity. Across three decades Sydney’s Simon Barker has developed a phenomenally sophisticated vocabulary for making music on the drums that is self-contained not only in terms of rhythm and texture, but also of melody and emotional connection. His escape route from any perceived strictures of conventional jazz-based drumming was to pursue a deep study of Korean traditional music, in which drums provide the spine of phenomenally dramatic narrative arcs.

Kim, meanwhile, Korean by birth, came under Barker’s influence as a student, and saw that her culture could also provide the pathway for her to find her own voice – one now distinct from Barker’s, but with such shared roots as make them perfect collaborators within Rose’s expansive vision.

The album was recorded a year after the work was aired at Sydney Festival, and it enjoys the benefit of superior sound quality to that event. Often Barker can seem like two drummers when playing solo, such is his ability to entwine multiple rhythmic and melodic patters in a process he calls “coiling”. Kim’s less dense approach, by contrast, increases Rose’s options in how he interweaves the other instruments into more orthodox dialogues with the drums. This is especially effective on the atmospheric Appear to Be and Wave Sad, Weave Slow, where the drums are just as pivotal as the other instruments in creating the prevailing moodiness. When an orchestrated melody emerges on Appear to Be, it is an organic outgrowth of what has gone before, as is the subsequent drums/piano dialogue.

Rose astutely breaks up the album with Hold Tight, which locates the drums slightly more in the background, allowing his own tenor saxophone, Tom Avgenicos’ trumpet, Hilary Geddes’ guitar, Novak Manojlovic’s keyboards, Jacques Emery’s bass and Ben Cary’s synth to share a roistering conversation over a more customary groove.

In fact the whole hour-long suite is shrewdly structured to create a coherent progression of concepts and moods. Mirage Returns has a desolate solo from Avgenicos and the sort of sparse cymbal-work that Barker, singularly, can load with portentousness, while Geddes’ guitar tears up the foreground fabric of Here Again in a sudden escalation of the drama. Finally Currents and Tides carries an edginess in the horns that beckons gusts of such furious drumming from Barker as would, by themselves, detonate the piece’s emotional content, were this not amplified by the horns.

Rose conceived of Disruption! in response to the waves of protest sweeping the planet prior to the even mightier disruptions of the pandemic and Ukraine. Yet throughout the mad, dangerous world of the last three years, his label, Earshift Music, has not only survived, but become Australia’s most significant outlet for jazz-related music. This year alone has seen such brilliant releases as Cameron Undy’s Ghost Frequency, Visions of Nar’s The Beginning, The Three Seas’ Afterlife and Rose’s Face to Face. All are worth chasing by those who enjoy complete immersion in exemplary musical creativity.