Devin Gray: Most Definitely

Brooklyn-Berlin based percussionist conjures a kaleidoscopic variety of sound, referencing Ed Blackwell, Tony Williams and John Zorn


Scarcely a decade since his impressive debut Dirigo Rataplan, the Brooklyn-Berlin based percussionist Devin Gray has become a regular collaborator with artists of the stature of Tim Berne, Angelica Sanchez and Michael Formanek. Most Definitely is perhaps his most personal statement to date, an album of solo percussion with electronics which is released to coincide with his 40th birthday.

A product of much inward reflection about the non-hierarchical nature of sound, this a kaleidoscopic work distinguished by its rapid-fire turnover of ideas and broad spectrum of extremes. The 23 tracks vary significantly in pace, density and attack, and for the most part are scarcely 90 seconds in duration. The two notable exceptions are Soldier On, Milford (an epic and at times propulsive dedication to the late Milford Graves), and the brilliant Fritz Hauser-esque abstractions of Tough Love – at around 20 minutes each, the two pieces account for more than half of the playing time.

By switching between acoustic and electronically processed sounds, Gray can bend and stretch time in unexpected and occasionally disarming ways. The fast and furious Bad WiFi and Digital Nomads, for example, pay respective nods to early drum ’n’ bass and Autechre’s mind bending techno. Pull To Refresh experiments with digital glitches and degradations, while Tailgate Lunches and Doom Scrolling verge on machine-generated white noise.

Equally engaging are the quieter pieces such as opener Hunker Down, where Gray’s crisp percussive details emerge from the faintest background rumble. The small jewel-like tributes to Ed Blackwell and Tony Williams are freighted with history, and even the post-punk thrash of Vone It In brings nostalgic memories of John Zorn’s Naked City.

A complex set which asks for full listener engagement; those accepting the challenge will be handsomely rewarded.

Hunker Down; Pull To Refresh; Bad WiFi; Most Definitely; Upstate Berlin; Tailgate Lunches; Blackwell Magic; Hoi Polloi; Digital Nomads; 2077; Crypto Punks; Doom Scrolling; Only The Poets (For Daniel Levine); Soldier On, Milford; Case By Case; Data Pollution; Jack De Blues; Tough Love; Anthony, Burroughs; Millennial Hotel; Vone Call; Subscription Fatigue; Vone It In (72.01)
Gray (d, elec). No dates or locations.
Rataplan Records 040 (LP & CD)