Rusted Root percussionist makes musical ‘Revelation’
Jim Donovan’s previous solo efforts have included excursions into ambient music and hand-drum instruction.
For his third album, “Revelation #9,” the Rusted Root percussionist is taking a different tack, with a different goal.
“I wanted to make a record that makes people move, and expresses aggressiveness without spewing negativity,” Donovan says.
In other words, get ready to dance. The CD release party for “Revelation #9” on Thursday at Mr. Small’s Theatre will be, says Donovan, “a hybrid event, part live show and part dance party.”
Which is sort of the atmosphere that Rusted Root creates in its live shows. But Donovan’s music is coming from an entirely different place. Using percussion as a rhythmic base, he has created a series of songs that incorporate the techno, house and dance sounds that were opened up to him when he started using his computer “for more than just e-mail,” he says.
“As a musician, there were things that I heard in my head since I was a kid that I couldn’t express on my acoustic instruments,” Donovan says. “This was the window that I had been looking for to try to express some of these ideas and rhythms.”
Donovan worked for almost two years on “Revelation #9.” Starting with 25 to 30 tracks, he whittled the list down to nine songs that have a cohesive, thematic flow. As with his earliest musical influences — Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix — he hopes listeners will listen to the album as an entire piece.
“With Rusted Root, I usually do most of the set lists, and I do them in such a way that works both the energy of the audience and the band, so it’s an interactive thing,” he says. “I applied that same concept to sequencing this record, so that it energetically takes you to a point. When you’ve had enough, it brings you down into a nice open spot, then brings you back up.”
Throughout “Revelation #9” there are recognizable strains and snippets of Middle Eastern, hip-hop and Indian music. There’s even basic rock ‘n’ roll in “Las Vegas,” the album’s most intense and forceful piece.
But the thematic flow of the music came by way of serendipity more than by design. Donovan says when he tried to force musical issues, they frequently didn’t coalesce.
“Anything in this recording project that I strove to do didn’t work,” he says. “The things that came easiest were the things that worked the best.”
Most of “Revelation #9” is instrumental, but the tracks that do have vocals are notable. “Love 1” features an ethereal performance from Rusted Root vocalist Liz Berlin. And on “Unblind,” Donovan combines with Brooklyn DJ and rapper Blowout, whom he met last year on a Rusted Root tour.
“Making a record this way is a lot about shape and tone,” he says, “whether it comes from an acoustic instrument or whether I stick it into a filter and just completely maul it. The idea was not to be limited by anything, with any ideas of it having to be all ethnic or acoustic instruments. Or, can I use this really distorted electric guitarâ¢ What will people thinkâ¢ I threw all that stuff out the window and just did exactly what was there. That’s when things came the easiest.”
Blowout will be part of Thursday’s show, as will Berlin and, according to Donovan, some of the area’s best DJs. But he’s not giving away all the details.
“There are all kinds of little things that might be surprising if you show up,” he says. “But the idea is to have people go, ‘Oh my God, that was a great time.’ And, obviously, I want them to dance.”
|Jim Donovan CD release party|