This spastic array of fusion and rock from former King Crimson bassist Trey Gunn is more a record of a man exploring his own musical limits than an album in any traditional sense of the word. Of course, when someone composes over a 51-minute drum solo by one of the world’s most extreme percussionists, you cannot possibly expect the result to be traditional. It borders on listenable, as long as you are into that kind of thing.
As someone who is into that kind of thing, I find myself more interested in the project than the music that resulted. The drummer in question, Germany’s Marco Minnemann, performed the solo and distributed it to a selected group of musicians, each of whom was challenged with composing their own music and “ideally, make it seem like only this performance could go with [the] music,” according to a statement on Gunn’s blog.
Though it is difficult to imagine a different style of music being played over the solo than the aforementioned mix of avant-garde jazz-rock, I have my doubts that the resulting feel of the album would be any different or that Gunn’s arrangements are inseparable from Minnemann’s performance. The dizzying drum patterns that lurch back and forth between trance-like high-hat grooves and furious rolls do not lend themselves to much else but music that is largely atonal and without memorable melodic ideas.
The concept of pushing musicians to their creative limits that resulted in Modulator’s conception is a fascinating one and I have to admit I am interested in hearing what other artists composed to Minnemann’s solo. Unfortunately, the result here has more value in a theoretical sense—seeing that it was done—than as a comprehensive and enjoyable album.
In A Word: Respectable