MARK TEPPO's igloomag.com REVIEW ::
(01.25.06) I think I need to drink about a case of Red Bull to be able to talk about Kevin Sawka's drumming. Ten or so years ago, this record would have been lost in the haze of drum 'n' bass that was currying favor on every street corner. Now, drum 'n' bass has that sort of tired whiff to it that says, "I didn't age well coming into this new century." Unless you're Kevin Sawka. Why? Because he does it all live with just two hands, two feet, and a head for rhythm. Synchronized Decompression is a mind-blowing excursion of extreme BPMs where every drum kick, snare pop, high-hat snap and rolling breakbeat is done by hand. In real-time. By one guy.
Working off a kit that seemingly needs an octopus to properly trigger, toggle, wiggle, "press play" and otherwise made noise and lights with, Sawka builds tracks that lie somewhere between Squarepusher and the Ninja Tune stable while still retaining an atmospheric lightness that keeps his work on the cusp of downtempo stateliness. "Ancient Wedding" is wrapped around a strip of vinyl that has a single spoken-word warning about the destructive nature of our modern fascination with the weapons of war. Sawka dances and darts around this looping phrase, his drums and triggers fluttering about as a cascade of percussive jabs and pops. Atmospheric electronics gurgle and noodle in the background like the constant titter of adoring fans. In "Sapphire," a downtempo chanteuse croons a dreamy lament about the disappearance of magic from our lives while Sawka shuffles and whispers around her like a whirlwind of dry leaves and heavy rain drops. His rhythms add a LTJ Bukem sheen to an otherwise Portishead-style track, lending a flurry of motion to the dreamlike downtempo movement of the singer's voice.
Sawka moves like a hummingbird, his arms a blur as he layers drums and triggered events into a syncopated soundtrack for "Psycho," a bit of cinematic chase music that clatters with a chaotic intensity on the edge of high velocity BPM. His assault on the snare drum in "For Oily To Normal Skin" is a frenzied burst of stick work alone and the fact that he surrounds this rhythmic fury with a winding synthesizer melody and a stack of triggered events and drum kicks continues to build the mythology that he's more human than human. "Scrappin'" swaggers with its strings and sultry synthesizer tones but underneath it's all percussive chaos as Sawka churns up the bedrock with a profusion of charged rhythmic movement.
Synchronized Decompression will give you brain cramps if you try too hard to deconstruct it. Sawka has disassembled the rhythmic punch of drum and bass and recreates it on-the-fly with his monstrous assembly of real and digital instruments. Blurring the distinction between reality and artifice, he demonstrates that the truth isn't that we need to fear computers, it's that technology needs to fear us. Because we will adapt and catch up. Sawka is next-generation.