When John Luther Adams first conceived of the percussion-driven roots of Ilimaq in the mid-1990s, he was still uncertain of what direction the music wanted to take, and whether it could sustain itself as a sound installation or as a fully developed performance piece. Glenn Kotche, who happened to be a fan of JLA's work, and reached out to him when Wilco was on tour in Alaska in 2008, turned out to be the collaborator Adams was looking for. A drummer himself, JLA began to envision a piece of music that would demand physical endurance, mental stamina and in turn, almost a "trance state" from the performer. And as he writes in the liner notes for Ilimaq: "All these years later, in Glenn Kotche, I've found the drummer I always imagined I could be."
Ilimaq merges ambient soundscapes, based on electro-acoustic and environmental sounds that were recorded and edited by Adams in Alaska, with the powerhouse drumming of Kotche, who recorded his parts at Wilco's loft studio in Chicago. Split into five sections but meant to be a continuous listening experience, the 48-minute piece conjures up multi-hued references to the work of Brian Eno, Luc Ferrari and even Can and Cream, all in the course of a dream-like "spirit journey" that lives up to the original Iñupiaq (Alaska Inuit) meaning of the word.
You can get the double-disc package now (in stereo and 5.1 surround sound) at the Bang on a Can store.