“The Whole” by Jon Mueller
A beguiling percussion-led exploration into history and the heart that beats beside it.
‘The Whole’ might be avant-percussionist Jon Mueller’s first album for the Type imprint but it’s far from his scene debut. Working in a plethora of bands for many years (including ‘Collections of Colonies of Bees’ and ‘Volcano Choir’ with Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver), Mueller has honed his sound to a distinct peak, and over the course of umpteen solo albums and collaborations has cemented his status as one of experimental music’s most revered drummers.
Following his epic works ‘Metals’ (a collection of classic heavy metal rhythms) and the expansive and surprisingly beautiful ‘Physical Changes’, both for the esteemed Table of the Elements label, Mueller embarked on the heady process of creating a ‘defining’ work. Intrigued by ideas of simplicity and acoustic sound, Mueller’s research drew him to Shaker crafts and quilt making, both deceptively simple practices rooted in the transmission of ideas. Over time these experiences were interpreted in many different ways, almost certainly inaccurately, and this miscommunicated simplicity is at the very centre of ‘The Whole’. Through a rolling, unamplified snare drum (a piece of kit perfected over a year of intense practice), booming low toms, hammered dulcimer and his own voice, Mueller creates a sound that is wholly original and totally beguiling. There are traces of folk traditions and lines drawn to the avant garde idiom but Mueller’s sound is so singularly perfected it is hard to connect him to specific peers.
‘The Whole’ is an album that sounds like both a relic of the past and an echo of the future. The ideas are anchored in memory and tradition, yet the sound is alien and sometimes impenetrable. Over time, as the messages are stripped back, an unabashedly gorgeous piece of work is revealed. Like a good book, it requires patience and contemplation to show its beating heart.