[TALKING DRUMS] Neal Morgan is best known for his percussion work with Bill Callahan and Joanna Newsom. With Newsom, in particular, Morgan has contributed some of the most meticulous yet minimalistic drumming around, especially on the gorgeous triple-disc Have One on Me. Lesser known is Morgan's solo work, built of spoken-word poetry and trap-kit musings.
His third solo release, Neal Morgan, is a stark and sincere piece of impressionistic music with two distinct halves. The first five tracks ask big questions while basking in the even larger shadow of unknowing silence. It's fascinating how Morgan's few words can scratch so forcefully at the psyche, ultimately sounding like your own personal thoughts. "And I don't care how this sounds to you/ There is a higher power," he says on "Repairing a Wall," a 3½-minute discovery of beauty and religion stemming from menial housework.
Side two sees Morgan pick up his drumsticks, per the hasty "Woke Up on a Driveway" and the insectlike "German Artist at Night." The tracks blend elegantly, despite Morgan's abstract, free-verse drum work. By "The Mansions on the Hill of California," Morgan is talking only through his drum set, finishing scattered, jazzy lines with poignant crash cymbals and snare rolls. He moves from vocalist to drummer like Kafka's The Metamorphosis moves from person to creature.
Morgan is enamored with Philip Guston, and it's been said much of this record is a response to the artist's later neo-impressionism. Undoubtedly, Neal Morgan hinges on a blatant and satisfying disregard for the conventional. It's a challenging record that, much like an elaborate painting, deserves attention to details.
SEE IT: Neal Morgan plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Pulse Emitter, WL and John Bowers of Nurses, on Tuesday, June 3. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.