THE BINARY SYSTEM, "FROM THE EPICENTER" Upon reading the instrumentation used to record this album (both toy and prepared pianos, metal, wind machine), you'd expect a virtual John Cage-match, or at least another boring piano/drum duo album. But Roger Miller, ex-Mission Of Burma guitarist, and drummer Larry Dersch pound out a brilliant disc full of twists and turns and toe-tappers. Yes, "From The Epicenter", basically, rocks! Miller sounds like a heavy-handed Keith Jarrett, all percussive force and no gentle twinkle, and Dersch's drumming is equally, if not more, muscular. "Amazons" will have you rethinking the avant garde's fun deficiency: tribal beats swirl around you, while Miller plays an almost guitar-like funk melody on the prepared right side of his piano, and plays the low-end bass portion with the natural sound of the left side. The gradual gain in momentum of "Warp Drive", which whips you around in the duo's vortex, ends abruptly with Dersch's unusual duct tape "solo", probably one of the most bizarre (albeit short) solo's since Yusef Lateef soloed on an inflated balloon. Exciting stuff like this from "the underground" only surfaces every so often. - Jason Olariu
Massively regarded since his days as guitar assassin in the legendary Mission of Burma, Roger has since been making intensely sophisticated music, largely driven by his eclectic approach to prepared piano. He's released several critically acclaimed solo guitar and piano albums on Forced Exposure, Ace of Hearts, RRR and SST, which to a significant extent have led him to the pinnacle so readily apparent on From the Epicenter. Percussionist Larry Dersch joins Roger to form Binary System, likely the heaviest avant-classical duo on the planet. Binary's music is typically dark, complex, cinematic and loud. Its compelling nature is derived from a blueprint of heady neoclassicism, impressionistic avant-jazz leanings, and the relentless desire to rock (if such a term may be applied). In the final analysis, their unique aesthetic undoubtedly makes Binary System the spiritual kindred of Sir Glenn Branca.
Binary System - From The Epicentre CD £15.99 (Atavistic) This is the debut collaboration between 'Mission Of Burma's' Roger Miller and percussionist Larry Dersch. The album mainly features the extraordinary piano playing of Roger Miller coupled with Dersch's wild drumming. It comes across as a mix of avant jazz and the soundtrack to a 1960's silent movie. Frantic, mesmerising and dramatic sound effects make this a real freakscene of an album, completely off the wall at times. You will find it hard to find a single dull moment on this album.
Rock inherited the hallowed institution of the drum solo from jazz and never quite got it right. Whereas jazz percussion can offer some of the form's most expressive and challenging music, the rock drum solo never extends beyond an excuse for the rest of the band to catch a smoke, drink a fifth of Jack and point out some front-row muff to a flunkie for an all-access. Consequently, the arena-rock staple is usually comparable in artistry to a temper tantrum; and while there have been some great drummers in the annals of rock, the art of rock drumming has languished in a state of arrested development.
The percussive archaeology of Binary System, however, is neither rock nor jazz, but a rumble in the deep strata underlying both. From the Epicenter is an aptly-titled work of violent beauty. The band is a binary system of percussion and piano, a duo capable of creating a geologic music that seems to threaten the ground beneath our feet. The album-- featuring Mission of Burma guitarist Roger C. Miller on various pianos and sometime Morphine and Concussion Ensemble drummer Larry Dersch on percussion-- manages to sound simultaneously primitive and futuristic. The music partakes of the deep time of seismic events and continental drift, as well as the cinematic careen of modernity. In 53 minutes, a world had emerged from the molten sea and the sky has already fallen down upon us.
Miller's piano seems to resist melody at every turn, instead resorting to toy piano and prepared piano (a la John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes) for color. At times, it recalls the savagely percussive piano of McCoy Tyner in Coltrane's mid-sixties quartet, circa Birdland. Miller plays piano like a pinball machine, coaxing grace and fluidity from the edge of breakdown. Dersch's nimble and resourceful drumming surges in the willful resistance of anything resembling ordinary time. Under the direction of Dersch's punctuated catastrophe, the music slips in and out of odd time signatures, lapses into syncopation and thins out to the faintest approximation of rhythm-- sometimes nothing more than a rattling of the sticks.
From the Epicenter thrives on relentless instability, like the geology it aspires to reproduce: forging the illusion of solid rock where there's nothing but the gnash and tangle of continents underfoot. Yet the listener isn't permitted the reliability of permanent earthquake; the rumble often gives way to the most serenely lovely lines of piano coasting over the drums like a warm front, the prospect of gathering storm.
The sound is too awfully inhuman to pass as jazz and too willfully anonymous to pose as rock. More often than not, the effect is classical, like Stravinsky without strings. From the Epicenter is one of those rare works of contemporary instrumental music that unfolds without the threat of growing too cerebral. There's something irresistibly primal about the whole album, an earthquake in the gut. Once in a while, you almost forget it's music.
-Brent S. Sirota
Boston Globe: 11/99
Two musicians rarely fit together more sympathetically than pianist Roger Miller and drummer Larry Dersch on "From the Epicenter" (Atavistic), the second disc from their duo The Binary System, which plays the Middle East Dec. 10. It's been two years since the group's debut, but Miller is glad they waited. "Everything is there on this one," he says of their cascading, counterpunctual interplay, a mix of contemporary classical composition, rock grooves, and free-jazz improvisation.
Boston Herald: 12/99
"The Binary System, a heavyweight duo featuring pianist Roger Miller and drummer Larry Dersch, have a new CD on the Atavistic label, ``From the Epicenter,'' and it's a powerhouse effort. Music that should burst apart from the energetic chaos pushing at its seams instead stays powerfully cohesive."
This avant-garde jazz duo has quite a resume. Roger Miller, on piano, played guitar in Mission of Burma. Larry Dersch, on drums, was part of Concussion Ensemble and has performed on several Morphine recordings. Together, they use everything from toy pianos to duct tape to creat a whirlwind of cacophony. Driving piano rhythms are the foundation for intense sonic development which melds the subtleties classical music with the roughness of jazz and the fury of rock. Dersch and Miller are world-class musicians. Solid instrumentals and unusual times, the rumba beat in "Amazons" for example, make this an interesting listening experience. The arrangement style of the piano and drums allows a certain ambiance that gives the piano freedom to weave in and out of the drumbeats to create a fervent texture of sound. The piano rolls are intense and the drumming is super-tight. Songs like "Core Sample" and "Warp Drive" had me gasping for air.
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