Most of us familiar with Jeph Jerman likely associate him with the scrapings and scratchings of found objects he used with great prolificacy over the last decade and half. More senior fans may be most familiar with his low fidelity field recording work in the 1980s and ’90s as Hands To. I for one, have always drawn a bit of a blank on what precisely his solo output was between the two periods. Tug Ear has helped fill that void.
Jeph Jerman has performed in at least a dozen groups over the years, and perhaps foremost among them is the free jazz/psych-rock/post-punk/noise outfit Blowhole. As on a number of Blowhole’s releases, Tug Ear features Jerman playing a drum kit in just about every way possible. From the label’s notes (I assume posted by Eric Lanzillotta himself), “he provides a varied and cohesive set of music using techniques such as playing drum heads with rubber balls, playing cymbals with finger while bending them to change the pitch and timbre, flaying the kit with guitar strings, and augmenting the kit with his key chime (found house keys suspended), toy xylophone, and overtone singing.”
Both pieces start quietly enough, with a variety of extended techniques sometimes easily identifiable, sometimes not. Both also break into free jazz drum solo territory. The duality of this approach reminds me of some of Han Bennink’s solo work, the upbeat moments particularly of the excellent Tempo Comodo. For a more contemporary comparison, and more akin to Tug Ear‘s quieter sections, try Burkhard Beins.
Being a 7″, it would be silly to fault the work for its brevity. That said, the sheer diversity and density of sound lends Tug Ear a demonstrative tone as opposed to a narrative one. The tantalizing opening minute of the untitled piece on side A left me begging for more of the same. The instrumentation is Jerman from the 90s, but the aesthetic of that particular section looks distinctly forward to his countless CDrs of found natural objects. I welcome recommendations from our readers and listeners of other transitional work from this stage in Jerman’s career.