When he’s not manning the drumkit for alt-rock juggernaut Wilco, Glenn Kotche works tirelessly on his own as a composer and percussionist with “unfailing taste, technique and discipline” (Chicago Tribune). His latest work is the multi-hued Adventureland, a collaborative effort and his first since 2006’s Mobile. It all started when Kotche caught a Kronos Quartet concert in 2006 and set out to write a string quartet; eventually, the scope of the project morphed into a kaleidoscopic amusement ride of strings, gamelan, electronics and Kotche’s vast arsenal of percussion instruments.
“For the string quartet, I was banging my head against the wall for ideas,” Kotche remembers, “and the solution didn’t really come to me until I sat down at the drums. I realized, ‘Hey—four voices, four limbs!’ So I made the cello my right foot, the viola my left foot, and took it from there. When I transposed that, I had the first three movements of Anomaly.”
Kotche premiered Anomaly with Kronos Quartet at the 25th Anniversary San Francisco Jazz Festival in 2007. Fittingly, the piece’s seven movements serve as the connective tissue that binds Adventureland into a cohesive whole. From the wild ride of Triple Fantasy (an ingeniously spliced suite of performances by Kronos Quartet and Chicago’s eighth blackbird ensemble, embellished with various field recordings) to the playfully pop-like gamelan arrangement of The Traveling Turtle (with Gamelan Galak Tika), the recording maps an intense and fertile period of growth in Kotche’s artistic vision. It’s capped off by the chilling, at times even macabre five-part piece The Haunted (for “two pianos vs. percussion”), which features Lisa Kaplan, Doug Perkins, Matthew Duvall and Yvonne Lam.
“I called this Adventureland because besides being something that’s fun, it’s also kind of weird and mysterious, and at the same time scary and intimidating,” Kotche explains. “It’s a confluence of new territory that I’m trying to figure out and navigate, and by approaching it as who I am—as a drummer, a percussionist—that’s where I do have an original voice, and I do have something to say.”