The music of composer and percussionist John Colpitts is as fearless as it is far-reaching. As one of New York’s most in-demand improvisers and drummers, Colpitts’ prolific list of collaborations speaks to his omnivorous and innovative approach to music. He operates at the vanguard of new music, whether working with pioneering composers like William Basinski and Laurie Anderson, outrock explorers Boredoms, Oneida and Spiritualized, or fellow contemporary sonic adventurers Greg Fox and Jan St. Werner. On new album Music from the Accident, Colpitts eschews his Man Forever and Kid Millions monikers to present his most vulnerable and resonant work to date, charting an important period of transformation for the composer.
As its name implies, Music from the Accident captures an unexpected, life-altering change in the composer’s life. In February 2018, Colpitts was involved in a car crash which severely injured his back and left him unable to work or perform for months. Working on new music became an important means of pushing forward through his recovery, which Colpitts deliberately approached as an opportunity to explore new creative avenues. Colpitts’ expressive grasp of rhythm and space still form the foundation of the album. Drums and percussion are entirely absent for the first half of the record, the composer instead transposing his rhythmic ingenuity to other instruments. With close friend and collaborator Greg Fox acting as producer, the pair worked on the initial piece transmuting the complex emotions of the experience into short sonic leitmotifs, sculpting small gestures on modular synthesiser and percussion into longer movements that Colpitts mutated and condensed into musical themes. The album’s subtle minimalism provides a perfect analogue for Colpitts’ journey to recovery: each repetition or delicate shift in tone and texture is almost imperceptible and yet an important step towards the album’s conclusion.
The three movements on Music from the Accident each speak to a different stage of Colpitts recovery - shifting from stasis to toddling and finally transcendence. “Bread”’s low-lit, bleary-eyed kosmische pulse opens the album with a treading churn while opening up a space for meditation and reflection. “Up and Down”'s fragmented, spidery rhythmic architectures and smoked-out melodies speak to the power of the unexpected. Starting with a series of complex interlocking rhythms, Colpitts attempted to play a normal beat along to a labyrinthine of overlapping meters, eventually deleting the pulse and leaving only the percussion. The album reaches its peak on final piece “Recovery”, dovetailing “Up and Down”s unconventional approach to rhythm with “Bread’s” ecstatic synthesiser dynamics, slowly blossoming and evolving without ever repeating. Microtonal viola runs by Jessica Pavone and sparse bass tones provide a perfect harmonic counterpoint to Colpitts’ foundation of synthesiser and percussion, constantly exploring and expanding the field of sound with the same searching sensibility as traditional drone music from around the world.
Music from the Accident illuminates Colpitts’ tenacious spirit and sheer ingenuity as a composer. Far from becoming depressed by a random act that could have ended his ability to play, Colpitts transformed the obstacle into an opportunity for creative and emotional growth. The creative process is truly inseparable from the final piece, the transformation and ultimate transcendence of an artist crystalized into a prism of immeasurable radiance.