Brooklyn’s ensemble, et al. looks a lot like a new-music percussion quartet, possibly because it started out as one in 2010. Its members – Jeffrey Eng, Charlie Kessenich, Ross Marshall, and Ron Tucker – schlep around more mallets and resonator pipes than anyone this side of Steve Reich’s posse. (Full disclosure: Marshall until recently also was a valued member of the National Sawdust staff.) A recent promotional video, which you’ll find at the bottom of this story, proves that the group can deconstruct and rebuild a vibraphone like the consummate pros that they are.
But ensemble, et al. is also in the business of deconstructing and rebuilding notions of what a percussion group can be and do, a process that has led from the savvy Arvo Pärt arrangements of its debut EP, Sounds of Others, to the moody post-rock dream-weaving and evocative titles found on its first full-length LP, 2014’s present point passed. Now, with its aptly titled second album, The Slow Reveal, ensemble, et al. seals its transformation into one of New York’s least definable, most original and compelling young groups.
The Slow Reveal is due Nov. 17 on Brooklyn indie imprint Imaginator Records. But thanks to the band and label, you can hear album track “Typewriters” streaming here exclusively—right here, right now.
Intent on making a statement with its sophomore session, ensemble, et al. headed to Chicago, where it recorded The Slow Reveal with John McEntire: drummer for Tortoise and The Sea & Cake, and a valued collaborator of Stereolab, Gastr del sol, Bell Orchestre, and Yo La Tengo, among others. You get a whiff of Tortoise’s cheerful hypnosis in the album’s infectious opening track, “Au Cheval” – hear a bit for yourself in the video clip embedded below.
“Typewriters,” though, is something altogether different: a slow, patient build from crystalline glockenspiel, bell tones, and toy piano; plaintive keyboard tones swelling in and out of earshot; distant piano notes seemingly shrouded in nostalgia. A little more than halfway through, a drum pattern emerges and the band swiftly musters around it, resulting in melancholy post-rock catharsis.
The Slow Reveal is filled with further mix-and-mingling of penumbra and corona, producing results to be savored by anyone who loves Steve Reich, Tortoise, So Percussion, Mono, or Midori Takada — and anyone whose appetite extends to all of the above shouldn’t stop to think twice.