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Take it Outside - Reviewed

31, July 2008
From the title and cover photo of Gunnar Waage's new CD, "Take it Outside" one might assume he's looking for a fight. After all, it can't be easy for an unknown progressive drummer and composer with the short attention span prevailing in today's post-American Idol popular culture.

"The Flight," which kicks things off, gets right down to business. Electric guitars and keyboards wail triumphantly over a rock solid groove and anthemic chromaticism, unfolding in layers to freefalls of percussive abandon and chops galore. A bit short on melody perhaps - you may not whistle this one while you work, but it's long on vibe. You could tap into the energy on this track to get both you and your neighbor's work done - toe tappin' and air-drumming like a true rocker throughout.

"I Travel" is an accompanied drum solo. That's right - but before you go for your popcorn, you should know it's a damn good one!

Beyond his impeccable chops and "take no prisoners" relentlessness, a deeper meaning of the CD's title begins to reveal itself through the orchestration that frames the solo. A refreshing use of avant-garde textures both harmonic and rhythmic give lift to the solo, lending weight to its title but air to its feel, as the exploration of the improvisation seems to rise up and out of orbit inviting the listener to join the journey.

The solo segues into "We Sail", where it would seem the drummer has picked up a few passengers for the ride and a good time is had by all. All the elements of the journey "outside" seem to coalesce into a collective vision. A melodic riff sets up a strong groove and Gunnar keeps things interesting by turning corners with his unpredictable chops and avant-tinged orchestrations.

"Lisa's Theme" winds the journey down with the most atmospheric track of the recording. It would seem, as Sun Ra once said, "Space is the place" for the native Icelander and his friends, as the music conjures visions of floating weightlessness, asteroid belts, shooting stars and light speed travel.

If you're a folk, punk or jazz purist this recording may not be your cup of tea, but if you're musically broad-minded and appreciate how music, as Art Blakey once put it, should "Wash away the dust of everyday life," then you just might want to accept Gunnar's invitation. One thing's certain - you'll reach the outer limits and back a lot cheaper than you would on Richard Branson's Mothership, and your imagination will thank you.

Take it Outside
Keyboards - David Garfield, Kristin Einarsson, Gunnar Waage.
Guitars - Bragi Bragason, Petur Valgar Petursson, Rikharur H. Fririksson.
Bass - Tony Franklin, Johann Asmundsson, Olafur Kristjansson.
Drums and percussion - Gunnar Waage

By David Stanoch
David Stanoch is a contributing author for MODERN DRUMMER, DRUMMER (UK) and Percussive Arts Society magazines.

David Stanoch has performed with a highly eclectic array of talent including Sheryl Crow, Herb Ellis, Robert Goulet, Bruce Hampton, Scott Henderson, Shirley Jones, Keb'Mo', Jack McDuff, New Kids On The Block, Bernard Purdie, Bonnie Raitt, Don Rickles, Martin Short, Ben Sidran, Clyde Stubblefield, Timbuk3, Butch Vig, and Mary Wilson, among others.

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