Consider the drummer. The wild-haired maniac who emits thunderous fury from behind the — often ostentatiously outfitted — drum kit. As time has passed and trends in music progress, this cultural image has become an endangered species.
However, this does not mean that drums as a whole are any less prominent in indie or alternative music. Here is a list of great drumming moments from alternative and indie artists. To open up the list, drum moments from all genres will be considered — even if they’re synthesized, not played live, or constructed out of a sample.
black midi – “John L”
On “John L,” Black Midi’s Morgan Simpson achieves the harmonious balance between technical mastery and musical exhilaration. By the time the song reaches its middle section (3:04), the song’s melody has flattened out completely to one or two notes, played on guitar and a screeching violin. Simpson takes this opportunity to begin his live-wire act: manically circling behind, in front of and presumably to the side of the beat, his drums fall apart, dissolve and then come back again.
American Football – “Never Meant”
While more known for its dazzling dual guitar leads,an integral part of “Never Meant” is Steve Lamos’ jazz-textured drumming. My personal favorite moment is at about 2:57. From the bridge, Lamos downshifts, expertly modulating back into 6/4 time and resuming the song’s knotty, regretful narrative. It sounds like an exhale, or letting the wind out of a sail, not flashy, but the perfect complement to the song.
Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar – “Never Catch Me”
The centerpiece of Lotus’ 2014 album “You’re Dead”, “Never Catch Me” is fascinating as a song and portent: as Kendrick Lamar breathlessly raps over Flying Lotus and Thundercat’s fractured jazz collage, you can see the kind of potent creative alchemy that would ultimately beget “To Pimp A Butterfly” a year later. The track truly kicks into gear when Lamar proclaims “Bitch, you’re dead!” and drummer Deantoni Parks takes center stage (1:22). Dueting with Thundercat, Parks authors a dizzying, breathless run — it feels like the gun has sounded on a hundred-meter dash and Parks is trying to squeeze as much in as possible before the finish line.
Smashing Pumpkins – “Geek U.S.A.”
This song is a microcosm of the rare skillset Jimmy Chamberlin brought to the Smashing Pumpkins — bringing enough power to propel a driving grunge song while having enough touch to keep their dreamier works afloat. Fittingly, the fill at 2:58 comes at the tail end of the Pumpkins building from a sparse bridge into a loud and chaotic guitar solo. It is Chamberlin’s job to kick the door down for Billy Corgan’s guitar pyrotechnics to take center stage, and he delivers masterfully.
Against All Logic – “I Never Dream”
“I Never Dream” pulls off a magic trick with its drum part — not only does it open with an elliptical, non-linear beat pulled, somehow, from a straightforward break, Nicholas Jaar — recording as Against All Logic — manages to construct a hypnotic, blissfully funky groove using the exact same rhythm once the beat drops (1:51).
The Knife – “A Tooth for an Eye”
“A Tooth For An Eye” presents one of the most thrilling moments in Swedish electronic firebrands The Knife’s discography at the beginning of its third verse (3:29). The tribal house slow burn— which had been coyly flirting with the idea of settling into a straightforward four-on-the-floor groove — finally blooms, pairing an earth-rattling kick with its tricky triplet-inflected polyrhythms. The melding of darting, jabbing syncopation with a grounding pulse is thrilling even now and brings a unique texture wholly new to The Knife’s music.
Jordan Bates is a biochemistry major, content writer and DJ trainee for KCPR. Nicole Herhusky is a graphic communication major and serves as KCPR’s art director.