Percussionist and composer Sean Noonan’s music has been fascinating largely because of his risk-taking. Not only has been ambitious in the styles he merges (Irish, West African, jazz, punk, etc., often in a single piece), but his recordings feel as if they’re just about to come undone. Part of the joy of discovering and revisiting something like Boxing Dreams comes from its mix of brainy exercise and reckless attack. Noonan’s new album A Gambler’s Hand doesn’t depart from that approach entirely, but it lacks the chaotic sensibility. Noonan’s still experimenting, leading a string quartet from his drum kit while telling a story of a gambler who becomes stuck in a wall. There’s nothing easy about the album, and it’s frequently challenging. At the same time, it never feels unhinged, even in the freer moments. The album’s impressive at times, but with the danger limited, it’s not as energizing as it could be.
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// Notes from the Road
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