On his latest album as Man Forever, percussionist John Colpitts pushes his rhythmic juggernaut toward pop melodies | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

On his latest album as Man Forever, percussionist John Colpitts pushes his rhythmic juggernaut toward pop melodies 

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click to enlarge Man Forever

Man Forever

Landon Nordeman

As a founding member of the aggressively off-kilter rock band Oneida, in which he is known as Kid Millions, John Colpitts has a history of beating the drums with unhinged abandon. Under the guise of Man Forever he dons a composer’s hat to explore a widening variety of art music driven by related strains of visceral rhythm, whether collaborating with the acclaimed new-music ensemble So Percussion or unleashing bruising grooves with fellow drummers from New York’s art-rock scene, Brian Chase of Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Greg Fox of Liturgy among them. On his latest album, Play What They Want (Thrill Jockey), these rhythms are immersed in meditative melodies, creating a delicious tension. As the opening track, “You Were Never Here,” unfolds, Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, and James McNew of Yo La Tengo join Colpitts in quietly singing a poplike tune with the hushed vibe of liturgical music over Brandon Lopez’s muscular double bass lines. From there the song goes through multiple iterations, introducing cascading piano lines and lush harp counterpoint from Mary Lattimore and Brandee Younger before concluding with gorgeously ghostly vocals from the members of the Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. Cramming that many sounds into a nine-minute piece could be a disaster, but Colpitts’s sense of pacing and deft touch at the mixing desk give it a lovely sense of scale and narrative flow. While nothing that follows is quite as stunning, Play What They Want is a strong album, and it’s to Colpitts’s credit that even a cameo from Laurie Anderson on “Twin Torches” offers no distraction from his vision. Man Forever’s appearance at the Poetry Foundation will feature a percussion-heavy but stripped-down touring ensemble including Matt Evans and Clara Warnaar on percussion and vocals, Noah Hecht on drums and vocals, and Coby Todd on bass, with students from the Chicago Lab School reciting their original poetry over pieces from Play What They Want.   v

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