(Creative Sources)

Two drummers were once typical of expanded rock bands (I’m thinking of Allman Brothers Band and the 1974 version of Frank Zappa’s Mothers, with Ralph Humphrey and Chester Thompson). Two drum sets plus percussion is what Alexander Babel and Nicolas Field play in “50 ballets”, a 13-track CD of improvisations that sound neither filled with testosterone nor bombastic, a vast range of gradations and morphologies appearing rather delicate even in the most beat-prolific passages, only to release the hottest, most intense vapours at the end of the program. Indeed I’d be willing to bet that a good portion of these pieces was played with bare hands, brushes or mallets; I didn’t hear too many wooden sticks around the house, but have no certainty whatsoever. “Civilized neutrality” shows the couple’s tasteful mixture of economy of means and tuned ears, built as it is upon an initial gong-like aura that gets interspersed with swift cymbal touches and sapient tom-based rolling, while “Rubber dust” is a comprehensive demonstration of dynamic sensitivity amalgamated with a keen sense of event placement amidst ample spaces. The only proper thunderous activity is to be found in “1328”, followed by the final “Caudeval by night” exploding in “full metal friction” mode. Shorter tracks like “Private puppetry” act as a temporary division between the paradoxically non-logorrheic discourses of the duo, showing Babel and Field’s attention-catching ability to determine the exact moment in which calmer sections should be inserted, thus enhancing their will of being recognized more as instant composers than just drummers. An appreciable effort by two talented men, “50 ballets” is a rather surprising album that should grant the protagonists a deserved visibility.