Canadian composer Martin Daigle with his Mossy Cobblestone (NO LABEL) …it’s got an odd cover painting depicting a bearded fellow in old-fashioned black suit and tie (possibly himself) sitting down to tea and cakes at a chequered tablecloth with his exact double, possibly in a nod to the paintings of René Magritte, or alluding to the café society of Satie. No annotations, no press release; at first glance it looks like Daigle is realising compositions from a number of contemporary classical names, i.e. Andy Akiho, Glenn Kotche, Benjamin Finley, and Casey Cangelosi.

Daigle is a trained percussionist, and the works here mostly tend to feature drums, xylophones, glockenspiels, and such (as far as my ear can make out), though other instruments may feature; the main characteristics of the music are a tremendous sense of precision, and dynamics, but also great syncopation in where the beats may fall. Using his performative skills, I sense that Daigle is making great use of what could otherwise appear a rather limited set-up, and from this jigsaw of carefully balanced elements, compositions of great complexity and scope start to emerge. I’m reluctant to say more without falling into error…to start with Daigle isn’t just a percussionist, but “an interdisciplinary artist … heavily involved in research and creation within audiovisual art forms”, and besides appearing at many festivals and events, professes an interest in rock drumming as well as classical. A serious student of his chosen instrument, he has studied percussion techniques in other parts of the world.

Moreover, the record might not be what it appears on the surface; we’re informed that Mossy Cobblestone “symbolizes the effect of humans on the stability of the earth’s climate with a musical timeline.” This might mean that the five pieces here – seven, if you count two “binaural headphone mixes” tacked on at the end – are related, and may even tell a story about the current climate crisis on planet Earth. The titles of the pieces aren’t exactly forthcoming about that – ‘Karakurenai’ is simply a Japanese word for “red”, although ‘Stop Speaking’ by Akiho may be interpreted as an injunction to the populace of Earth to stop talking about it and just take action. Musically, you will be baffled as I was if you try and follow the wild stylistic changes contained in these pieces – ‘Blade’ by Finley crosses gamelan with free jazz drumming in fast-moving bursts, and ‘Fanatic’ mixes urgent funk-rock riffs with energised drumming and an array of speaking voices sampled from media sources, babbling excitedly about pressing issues. Kotche’s ‘Mobile’ was my personal favourite, which grows progressively into a rich and labyrinthine dimension packed with melody, rhythm, and much incident, yet is outlined and conveyed by quite simple instrumentation.

In all a strong set of work from this close-lipped personality, and apologies to all if I have misunderstood anything about the intentions of this Cobblestone. We look forward to further releases from Daigle. From 20 January 2022.