Maria de Alvear & Drums of Chaos;


Maria de Alvear [voice] – Drums of Chaos [percussion]
Drums of Chaos: Jaki LiebezeitManos TsangarisReiner LinkeGero Sprafke

World Edition 0006. Duration: 64:30

Maria de Alvear
(Photo: Max Hampel. Variation: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

1. Tannenbaum [11:30]
2. Stein [1:27]
3. Ölbaum [12:18]
4. Linde [9:10]
5. Steineiche [12:33]
6. Stammbaum [10:15]
7. Laub [1:25]
8. Alle Blätter [5:03]

Maria de Alvear is a very diverse, original artist and composer and mystical human being. On this CD she works with a percussion group – Drums of Chaos – with which she has molded this mighty set of vocal percussion pieces.

Mount Liddubákti, Swedish Lapland
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin 2001)

At first hearing – Tannenbaum - I immediately think of at least three occurrences; 1) my friend Hebriana Alainentalo, a vocal artist, painter, poet and whatnot, originally from Pajala, Lapland (see her art in my review of Maria de Alvear’s Libertad, and hear her at her mp3-site;, 2) vocal expressions and art (yoik) from the Sapmi nation of Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland and bordering areas of Russia, and 3) the vocal expressions of the North American indian at any good old powwow! – and all these associations are of a shamanistic nature, be they arrived at in a sweating ceremony or initiation in North America or on a lonely journey through the visionary winters of Lapland when the stars sting like acupuncture out of unfathomable voids.

The leathery drums and the bulging, bending voice, sometimes high-pitched, sometimes roaring, sometimes maddening like the unbearable nagging of an old woman crouching, untouchable, unchangeable, intolerable – and I love it!
I think de Alvear and Alainentalo ought to get together. There is simply too much that connects them, though I’m sure they know nothing of each other – but I can change that; I can be the intermediary, the channel of forces. I’d be glad to! I only know about two women with this crazy stamina; Maria de Alvear and Hebriana Alainentalo.

Towards Mount Nallo, Swedish Lapland
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin, 2001)

I’m very sorry that track 2 – Stein – is so short, because the Hare Krishna, Steve Reich (Tehillim) rippling of vocals and dreamy, incensy bells open an illusory realm well worth spending a good time in. Completely disarming on your senses! It gets to you fast and well, right inside your head, tickling and fondling, hypnotic, sleek, slender, sexy! Tipitipitipitaitaitaitai! Bom! Tipitipitipitaitaitaitai! Bom! Tipitipitipitaitaitaitai! Bom!

Track 3 –
Ölbaum – is indeed longer, the drums fierce, relentless, leathery - while the vocals appear in the guises of swarms of insects through tall grass bending in the sunlight.
The vocals – perhaps de Alvear’s voice layered on itself – take on the colors of Tuvinian or Mongolian – or Stockhausenesque! – throat singing, i.e. xöömej or khoomei, depending on the way you wish to spell it.
The Drums of Chaos really work their behinds off on this track, in heavy, extremely fast spurs of attacks, while the vocals extend elastically, more and more, longer and longer, the music taking on Morse-like qualities, the last breaths of the lost Baltic Sea ferry Estonia ritually sinking in the middle of safety…

In Vistas Valley, Swedish Lapland
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin, 2001)

This is like thunderous Japanese Taiko drumming with the additive of forlorn, sweeping de Alvear vocals… and I’m amazed that this all could grow out of modern Europe… but then again, I don’t believe de Alvear’s music has anything to do with any special place or any special time, for I sense that her art belongs in the same realm as the saying “All Places are Here – All Times are Now”, in the true insight into the character of mind itself, the way Sogyal Rinpoche so well explains it in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. De Alvear also, in her way, teaches the same teachings, through her music. I wonder if she is aware of this, or if this simply works through her, through her magnificent intuition.

Linde – track 4 – opens carefully, more withheld, with rolling tin plate sounds and a low-key voice softly slithering across the carpet, entangling your ankles and legs, moving upwards until taking a firm Alainentalo grip around your waste, rising up to hold your face with both hands, staring into your eyes, sticking its (her?) tongue out right in front of you, wagging it back and forth in rapid movements, without the Palestinian holler but with a wet lick of your nose tip! Enjoy!
There are slight electroacoustic manipulations of the vocals, mostly consisting of pluralistic and bewildering layerings, easy to achieve but still very effective, again hypnotic, tickling, sometimes cutting the phrases down to fragments of morphemes, even though the title of the piece keeps coming back full-fledged much of the time, in triumphant flying colors, but being heard so many times over and over slowly loosing all substantial associations and references, simply falling out into the anonymous space of sounds without meaning, sounds as sounds, das Ding an sich! Effective! Jolly nice!
It feels like the voice is the prime force in this piece. The percussion is indeed always present, but utilized so cleverly and sensitively that it mostly just amplifies the voice, carries it forth without ego – and sometimes the permutated voice and the percussion disappear into each other, especially at the end of the piece, getting extremely interesting just before it ends. It should have continued at least another ten minutes at that dreamy stage of individual disappearance and wonderful disintegration into simmering, shimmering translucency.

Into Stuor Reaiddávággi Valley, Swedish Lapland
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin, 2001)

At track 5 we find Steineche. It hits off with a back-beat South American calypso percussion – sort of – and an introverted, nose-tip voice, a squint-eyed configuration swaggering, staggering down the path, veering between city walls, falling off the sidewalk into the gutter, climbing up, stooping down the street, banging into pedestrians and dogs, trash cans and piles of post-carnival litter, yessir!
This piece is long enough to really loose yourself in it, and I do, I do, I do… as the title word gets chewed and spit out, picked up and chewed again and finally swallowed and integrated with the anatomy, the anatomy of Maria de Alvear, the source of this magnificent voice, briskly hammered down the road by the candid powers of Drums of Chaos. This is top notch, high end, far out musicology for us lunatics – and the others can watch from a safe distance!
Let me tell you, I’m wearing some really good cordless earphones while writing this, and ever so often, especially in this piece, I get up and thud, jump, run through the apartment, dancing like a sick crow across open floor spaces and groups of furniture, yes!

Track 6 is also reasonably durated. It’s called
Stammbaum. It sounds very different from the outset, with a highly noticeable room reverberation and some rumble from equipment, until the Eastern percussion kicks in and soothes the static of the circumstances. De Alvear moans in Mongolian winds, Mongolian breaths, Mongolian austerity, as the vision inside my head shifts madly back and forth between a setting in my home town with a little child sitting at a sandbox, filling her bucket with sand, turning it upside down and patting the pile with her plastic spade… and a setting of a Mongolian shaman cross-legged outside her yurt on the steppe, invoking the gods of her forefathers… and perhaps the difference isn’t so great after all?

Maria de Alvear & Drums of Chaos

Track 7 is over almost before it begins, for Laub is only 1’25’’!
The rhythm is heavily punctuated and… swinging! It’s just a streak of light shining in from a symbolic outside into a symbolic inside… and a cat licks its paw in the window. It’s a safe moment.

Alle Blätter is the concluding work on this blessed CD from Maria de Alvear and Drums of Chaos. It comes at you in sharp and jangling chains of metal, rattling iron ore sprinkles and softly howling night owls… Moonlight presses heavily onto the surface of this nocturnal soundscape, as ice crystals form high up in the chilly atmosphere, gleaming and twinkling like stars as they soar down their slow descents. Above the jigsaw horizon of the spruce forests of the coniferous latitudes the northern lights extend their magic curtains. De Alvear encompasses me in the soft veil of her higher pitches, and my tympanic membranes accept her with joy and love!