A little over four years ago, the underground drumming titan John Colpitts was in a cab heading to the Los Angeles airport, when a drunk driver behind him smashed into the car and sent a carefully arranged, overscheduled life into chaos. As Kid Millions, Colpitts had been drumming for Oneida for two decades by that point; the band’s 12th album Romance had just been released and a tour was in the works. He was also the main force behind ecstatic percussion outfit Man Forever and had sat in with the Boredoms, Royal Trux and Spiritualized. He was in LA to play on an upcoming Black Mountain album. He had a lot of irons in the fire. The accident ended all that. His back wrecked, he was in too much pain to walk, let alone play the drums. He didn’t pick up his sticks again for months. And yet, when he did, learning to play again served as a kind of way back for Colpitts. Music from the Accident tracks the slow, uncertain progress that starts with a brush with death and ends in a free-squalling avant-garde celebration of life and music and recovery.
The disc begins with “Bread,” a moody keyboard drone that flickers in and out of clarity. Continuous washes of synthy sound paint the background, while a stuttering motif of struck notes patters on the surface. It feels like waking up slowly, the whooshing constant of the body’s unconscious processes gradually overlaid with staccato bursts of thought. There are no drums at all in this first track, but the following one, “Up and Down,” is nearly all percussion. The unaccompanied rhythm sounds like practice at first, the kind of numbing repetition that Colpitts would have had to perform to get his strength and skill back. But as it goes, the beat picks up layers of interlocking complexity, cymbals, bits of synth tone, hammering syncopation. You can feel the piece evolving from rote fundamentals into something like free thought as it progresses.
The best part comes last, however, in the sprawling “Recovery,” which layers the howl of free-form viola (that’s Jessica Pavone) over a surging, swelling firestorm of drumming as sure and nuanced and powerful as Colpitts work with Oneida, as physically exultant as his long rolls through Man Forever. Colpitts delivered early versions of Music from the Accident through a theater piece that traced his journey from injury to recovery with narrative and music. The music by itself is powerful enough, though, as a record of struggle and overcoming. | j kelly