Stomp Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey Review

Soundtrack. Released 17 December 2002.  

BBC Review

Soundtrack based on West End percussion extravaganza. Drumming from all over the world.

Morag Reavley 2003

Percussionists of the world unite for the soundtrack of Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey, a film journey through some of the strangest and most compelling sounds humans can make.

The album kicks off from the stage-show Stomp, brainchild of performers Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, whose trash-can and broomstick orchestra draws beauty from the most unpromising materials. The urban improvisations of the Stomp crew are set against the rhythms and simple instruments of the tribes of five continents, from Brazil to Botswana.

A foretaste comes in the opening ensemble piece, 'Beat Box', a symphony of clunks, clicks, claps, whistles, snorts and gurgles to a funky snare rhythm.

African music is a strong presence. Key performers are Qwii Music Arts Trust Khoi San Music, Kalahari performers working in a tradition of healing music dating back 25,000 years. 'Xlao Tshao' and 'Tsweretswere' are irresistibly sunny, community pieces using traditional balaphone (a kind of xylophone) and kalimbo (thumb piano).

From South America come Timbalada and Os Zarabe, hammering the timbale, a Brazilian hand drum. Their robust, carnivalesque dance-beat, accompanied by whistles, sounds like party night in an Ibizan superclub.

Other highlights include the wild ululations of the American Indian Dance Theatre; the extraordinary, calypso-like 'Click Song' by Glina Mkhize; and the terrifying stomp and wail of flamenco in a number by dancer Eva Yerbabuena.

This is no idle anthropological exercise. The dustbin-lid percussion of the Stomp crew is lifted out of the novelty bracket when placed in the context of other improvised musical traditions. The tribal rhythms are dug out of the worthy world music category and revealed as pulsing, pertinent or justplain catchy. While there are straight recordings for purists, there are also imaginative remixes. In 'The Pulse', for example, Kalahari drums and xylophones provide the backbeat for an urban rap narrative.

This soundtrack celebrates the rhythm that binds everyone together, the one language all the world understands. In our difficult times, what could be more exciting than that?

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