Album review: So Percussion — It Is Time

So Percussion -- It Is TimeAs the father of a nearly 18-month-old son, I have become all too aware how quickly time passes us by. I know that’s hardly an original observation, but it’s a truth that I internalize more and more every day. It is this truth — as well as the age-old fantasy that we might change time itself — that led Steve Mackey to compose the five pieces that make up It Is Time, performed by a quartet of experimental musicians calling themselves So Percussion.

As an expression of Mackey’s inspiration, It Is Time is exquisite. The album’s five compositions blend seamlessly into one another, and despite the emphasis on different percussion instruments in each there is a tangible unity of vision on display. The record’s centerpiece is the third song, “Marimba.” It’s the sonic equivalent of Salvador Dali’s immortal painting, The Persistence of Memory, in that the music enables me to visualize the bending of time itself. In an alternate universe this could be the theme song to The Twilight Zone.

Present throughout the entire album is the metronome (which lends its name to the first song), but almost from the beginning its unrelenting rhythm is bent to So Percussion’s collective will. It remains a presence for the entire 38 or so minutes of the album — in some cases audibly underpinning the music, in others only implied.

Aside from the compositions themselves, It Is Time just sounds beautiful. It’s an immaculately recorded album, with a real presence and warmth that cries out for headphones. This is as true for the layered instrumentation of “Metronome” as it is for “Steel Drums,” which sounds like a Caribbean vacation gone horribly awry. Credit goes to producer and mixer Lawson White for this achievement.

So Percussion — Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting — premiered It Is Time at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on March 25, 2010. The album is set for a September 27 release on Cantaloupe Music and is packaged with a 5.1 Surround Sound DVD performance. Here’s a clip:

So Percussion and Cantaloupe Music will celebrate the release of It Is Time with an exclusive free performance on the 27th at the Clocktower Gallery, located in a historic landmark building on 108 Leonard Street (13th floor) in lower Manhattan. Doors open at 6 pm, and reservations are strongly recommended. For more information about the event contact or 718-852-7755, ext. 29.