Jim White

All Hits: Memories

Solo debut from Dirty Three co-founder hits different, finds Jeremy Allen

Debut albums tend to be designed to grab your attention, especially in a world where attention deficits are on the increase. Jim White’s All Hits: Memories grabs your attention in the most counterintuitive of ways, by not getting up in your face and demanding to be heard. The first part of the title All Hits is an ironic play on a greatest hits record, which also alludes to the fact that it’s a drumming record, joining a niche lineage that runs from Tito Puente’s Top Percussion and Babatunde Olatunji’s Drums of Passion from the late 1950s, right through to Dave Lombardo’s Rites of Percussion last year.

There’s the low thrum of droney synthesisers here and there, provided by Ben Boye. ‘Marketplace’ even becomes reasonably animated with sonic experimentation, with lute player Giorgos Xylouris adding to the fray. But essentially it’s still a drumming album made by a celebrated exponent of the art (White, for the uninitiated, was a co-founder of The Dirty Three and has played with Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Marianne Faithfull to name but three). Furthermore, while these tracks were recorded with a producer, Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, there’s a strong sense of solitude permeating the space.

What sets this album apart from other drumming records is how nocturnal and mysterious it is at times, which is perhaps where the second part of the title Memories comes into play. Bill Callahan does his old pal a favour describing the record in the press release: “Air and light, a vibration sent through prehistoric breath, particles of Saturn’s atmosphere, the dead, wet leaves you walked through on the way to the first day of school. This is a record of thoughts, memories… it sets time free, lets it frolic, graze, and remember."

It’s a useful description that evokes the facilitating nature of what’s been laid down here, with snares caressed with brushes rather than thwacked forcefully in a cycle of expeditious paradiddles. Opener ‘Curtains’ is cinematic in its abstraction, a melancholic and sometimes blustery soundscape that allows room for the listener to create their own images. These tracks also come at you like thoughts on account of the fact they’re invariably no longer than a minute or two. There’s just enough time to get lost in thought before you’re jolted back to the beginning again.

Only ‘Long Assemblage’ has any ambitions to break out from the sketches, a five-minute exposition that dares to create anything like a narrative arc, carried along by some intrepid hi-hats. Otherwise it’s soft and languorous and thoughtful, and occasionally a little bit sinister, like with the suspenseful ‘Names Make The Name’. But most of all, All Hits: Memories sounds as though it was recorded late at night in a bustling city, with White conscious of not drawing attention to himself or waking up the neighbours. It’s the sound of a mind that’s ruminating while everyone else appears to be sleeping.

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