Album review: Archetypes

Published on April 14, 2021 by Josh Bokor       |      Share this post!

“Archetypes is a fantastic listen that I cannot recommend any higher. Not only is the theme itself intriguing and unique, but the performances and compositions are impressively beautiful and stunning to hear.”

“Like any Third Coast Percussion album, the sound is outstanding”

The new collaborative project from Third Coast Percussion, Brazilian guitarist Sérgio Assad, and multi-instrumentalist Clarice Assad focuses on the twelve character archetypes. The Latin jazz and rhythm influences add so much flavor to these compositions, bringing these ancient stories new life.

The Chicago-based quartet known as Third Coast Percussion are one of the most adventurous and interesting acts in chamber music today. Primarily focusing on percussive elements, the group constantly push themselves to create new works and reworks of existing compositions in a collaborative way. They use many instruments in their music, but most commonly use marimbas, vibraphones, and drums. Over the years they’ve put out many unique albums, each one being completely different from the next. Whether it’s the Grammy-award winning album of Steve Reich reinterpretations titled Reich, Paddle to the Sea, or their collaborative album with Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) they did in 2019 with Fields, the group continue to grow and try new things. I first heard of them in 2019 with their Perpetulum album, a double album featuring original compositions. It’s quite an explosive album featuring elements of post rock, light electronica, and of course the many elements of the vibraphone. It’s an almost alien-like album that’s quite isolated, cold, but very fun to listen to (I highly recommend it). It got me interested in future Third Coast Percussion albums to come in the future.

This time, the group continue to become collaborative not just with themselves, but with other artists. Archetypes is the new album from Third Coast Percussion featuring not just compositions among the group members but some with Sérgio Assad, Brazilian guitarist, and Clarice Assad, multi-instrumentalist and singer (and Sérgio’s daughter). But there’s a twist with this album: the theme of the twelve character archetypes (you’ve probably learned about in English class). The group decides to split duties along with Sérgio and Clarice; each musician being assigned to certain archetypes to write a composition for them. The result is an album of twelve songs, one for each character archetype, each resulting in a member’s perspective on the ancient stories being told about archetypes. Overall it’s a really cool concept that works out really nicely. What’s also notably different about this record is what Sérgio and Clarice bring to the table, which are their Latin roots in Latin jazz and rhythm music. It adds so much flavor and texture to the percussionists music, bringing these ancient stories new life.

The album’s track listing is quite a variety of sorts, ranging from warm Latin jazz to icy cold chamber music to piano-driven pop. I would also say that this is the most accessible Third Coast Percussion project to date, each track ranging from four to five minutes (rather than, say, a sixteen minute long opus). There is also a great shuffle-like quality to this record too. It’s the most fun project from them in my opinion, which is exciting to hear. The album’s overall production and sound is immense; it’s like being in the same room with them. There are plenty of surprises too, ranging from piano to guitar to vocals which aren’t really present in their past music. “The Rebel” kicks the album off in an explosive fashion with handclaps, bongos, and vibrant piano jabs. “The Innocent” is a gorgeous (GORGEOUS!) ballad that features Clarice on vocals (whose vocals are amazing by the way) and Sérgio on guitar, which is quite reminiscent of traditional Latin acoustic music. “The Magician” is quite graceful and carefree with its sunnier instrumentation. “The Ruler” starts out being a pretty piano-driven ballad, but its odd handclaps towards the latter half of the song quickly becomes tedious and almost unnecessary? I appreciate what they’re trying to do on the track, but it kind of becomes hard to enjoy the rest of the music with it in the forefront.

The biggest surprise on the record has to be “The Jester.” Where do I even begin with describing this song… It’s a certifies banger that features an abundance of unlikely sounds and instruments, ranging from the slide whistle, that wobbly piece of metal, and what sounds like bird calls (or a rubber duck?). It doesn’t sound like these sounds would go together at all, but they do and I have absolutely no idea how they’ve managed to accomplish it. It may sound like a mess to some, but I love its crazy, hectic sound. “The Caregiver” is another stunningly pretty guitar and piano ballad. “The Sage” may be the new song added to the next paranormal horror film. It’s a cool track but boy is it creepy with its icy percussion, layered whispers through the track, and oddly placed piano keys. “The Hero” is the album’s most explosive and fun track with its sharp and rapid piano playing, loud drums, fiery shakers, and quick guitar plucking. “The Explorer” is also another fiery closer, certainly leaving you revved up.

As much as I did enjoy Archetypes, I did leave with a few minor complaints, but these really are just wishes in a wish list rather than complaints. I wished there were more vocals from Clarice along with more Latin-influenced songs similar to that of “The Innocent” or “The Lover.” Aside from that though, Archetypes is a fantastic listen that I cannot recommend any higher. Not only is the theme itself intriguing and unique, but the performances and compositions are impressively beautiful and stunning to hear. Like any Third Coast Percussion album, the sound is outstanding as if you’re right there in the studio with them. It is also my favorite project from the group thus far. I hope that they can collaborate with Sérgio and Clarice in the future because they’ve brought a lot of variety to the group, whether it’s the instruments or compositions. The challenge to recreate ancient stories from the twelve character archetypes into 12 songs has been met successfully and its results are very fun. Third Coast Percussion continue to be one of contemporary classical music’s most head turning groups and have brought two excellent musicians along with them for the journey. Hopefully there’s another meeting with Sérgio and Clarice Assad sometime soon.

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