Jon Mueller, The Whole
Testing his own limits and hanging out the results for public inspection
Jon Mueller mines music for its therapeutic powers. Over a quarter-century he has developed his ritualistic, almost shamanic endurance technique as drummer and percussionist with Volcano Choir and Collections of Colonies of Bees, as well as collaborating with anyone from Swans, Wilco and Bon Iver to Z'EV`, James Plotkin and Marcus Schmickler. The Whole, on which he multitracks himself playing a pared-back drum kit, chimes and a hammered dulcimer, is experimental in the proper sense of the word, testing his own limits and hanging out the results for public inspection.
After the meditative opening of "Remembered As," with its ruefully plucked dulcimer and probing sub-bass rumbles, we're plunged into the 14-minute "Hearts." It opens with Mueller already in full flight, tattooing out a caveman beat on his snare drum and chanting, with a vaguely Native American bent, over the torrential pulse. For the final few minutes Mueller changes up a gear and thrashes his skins speed metal-style. If there are shades of recent Animal Collective here, it's more of a hairy-chest-beating version, with none of that group's honeyed overtones and more of the gritted endurance of a seasoned minimalist such as La Monte Young or Henry Flynt.
The scything snares and solemn incantations of "Hands" suggest the endless, restless motion of molecules, one of Can's 'ethnological musical forgeries', or the demented voodoo trance music of the tribe on King Kong's Skull Island. Repetition and monotony allow Mueller to lift himself out of mere virtuosity into some higher plane of possession, and there's a physicality and a bodily heft to these real-time actions that's tremendously involving over the long haul.