markYou like those Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Venetian Snares complex rhythms but want that shit to have the bassy depth of a J Dilla beat? Mark Guiliana is the only motherfucker I know that can supply you with this strange request, and he comes about it from a completely different angle.

On the surface, Mark plays the drums. So what’s the big deal? The dude plays the drums reeeeeally fucking well. Like, sweet spicy fuck on a fucksicle sprinkled on a hot fuck sundae, this dude can play the drums. He’s played alongside kings like Phronesis, Brad Mehldau, and David fucking Bowie like it wasn’t a thing. The guy is a master of the instrument. He’s the kind of motherfucker that PhD dissertations on rhythm are written about. People study this guy’s technique like theologians do Gematria. Mark goes around the world doing “drum clinics” for seasoned drummers and blows their fucking minds on what a pair of sticks can do. I’ve watched good drummers almost quit their craft after watching him. I’ve seen head professors at percussion facilities shake their heads in disbelief as Mark teaches a crowd a new way to count a fucking bar. Saying this guy is a jazz drummer is like saying Tesla was good at math, Miles Davis could play the trumpet, and Neil Armstrong was famous for taking a walk. Mark studies rhythm at such a sophisticated level it sometimes looks insane. Picture James Joyce writing a single word in a day and suddenly laughing uproariously, or a brilliant philosopher starring at a single grain of sand with utter confusion and asking, “why?!” That’s Mark’s level. People don’t argue on whether Mark is one of the greatest drummers alive. That’s just fact. The argument is if Mark is one of the greatest drummers of all time. It’s no wonder that this motherfucker’s got a cult following.

I’m sure at one point Mark could have been called a “jazz musician”. But there’s no way this guy is that anymore. His music fits more snugly into the world of electronics in the style of all those badass motherfuckers over at Brainfeeder like Flying Lotus, Thundercat, or Iglooghost. His music is incredibly compelling. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard and it’s, somehow, relatable. In order to help him with this new project, he’s brought on the help of three powerhouse musicians: Jason Lindner, BIG YUKI, and Tim Lefebvre. Any one of these dudes could get a room of musical pros more intellectually stimulated than a one-on-one with da Vinci. Bring them all together, and you’ve got the mind-melding abilities of the best in the game alongside a technical prowess that would make engineers piss themselves.

To an untrained ear, this album is a strange electronic jam with ’80s influences that ventures into genres ranging from reggae, psychedelic, to IDM. But this album is so much more. First off, Mark doesn’t do loops or programmed beats. This shit is all done by hand. This is like figuring out that everything Aphex was done by a live drummer. It seems impossible. It should be impossible. But that’s Mark. He’s just that fucking good. This album is so down to earth it can be easy to ignore. And I’m sure many people will ignore it. But with a closer listen, these jaw dropping techniques and innovative ventures into the world of beat-centred music opens new dimensions. Those heavy in electronic music will find the album too smooth, those heavy in jazz will find it too contemporary, but for those Goldilocksed fucking few, it’s like having a four way with three sexy and fabled bears: strong, rewarding, adventuresome, and just right in the strangest of ways.


4 thoughts on “Mark Guiliana – BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC!

  1. This is indeed highly insane; I always love your metaphors, and this Goldilocks one is no exception. This drumming is insane, I jumped around and sampled a few of the tracks, and I was impressed by technique but not convinced of insanity until I got to the weird drum fluctuations in BONES, straight out of an Aphex Twin track – one my favourite of Aphex’s tricks has always been the drums swelling and receding in speed but not volume, and this motherfucker does it by hand? What?!?!

    That said, I’m not super impressed with the actual album – call it a little too cheesy on the synth side, both production-wise (the tones are a little too slick) and melodically (not a whole lot of memorable stuff going on, to these ears). That said, this is absolutely the ‘new synthesiser-jazz’ we theorised on a few weeks ago, and while I’m not impressed with this particular example, I’m only glad it’s spreading. If the synth tones were a little more gritty, or the melodies a little more fuck-you-ish, this could be a favourite, but as it is, I’ll be checking for anything this seemingly four-armed madman has played on, and anything he does in the future.


    • You called it. This kind of jazz is getting around. Mark is a goddamn powerhouse of a player. “What?!?!” is the perfect fucking sentiment when he lays down the beat. Some modern jazz drummers are just beyond and make that short list alongside people like: Antonio Sanchez, Jorge Rossy, Dan Mayo and a shitton more I’ll be kicking myself over as soon as I fucking send this.


      • That’s always the way – as I said to a friend just the other day, who has great taste but is afraid to name favourites in any capacity for fear of forgetting someone, “it’s not so much about accuracy, as it is about trading things to check out and talk about.”

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Brad Mehldau – Finding Gabriel – The Brightly Off-Coloured Discophile

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