Casey Foubert and James McAlister’s Music for Drums is the third installment of Asthmatic Kitty’s Library Catalog Series, which is designed to be licensed for films and corporate presentations and the like. This third volume is what happens when two great drummers spend an entire album exploring what their instrument can do. Drums are kind of like the German language: harsh and abrasive if communicated by the wrong person, but interesting and palatable when handled with finesse. Here, they’re handled with such finesse that the album works as mood-setting background music (the purpose of catalog music) and can also stand the scrutiny of close listening.
Both Foubert (of Crystal Skulls and formerly of Pedro the Lion) and McAlister (of Ester Drang) have ears for melody — each produced one of the first two volumes in this series — and that ability to connect the listener comes across in this drums-only album. The album is enjoyable at any single point but is even better because of its progression. After a very strong first four songs, the marching band-like drums on “They Should Be Called Numbers” herald the more experimental “C V. J V. X” and “(C V. J V. X)+1,” which take the album to another level. “C V. J V. X” layers drums playing different beats at different tempos in different time signatures in a way that is actually coherent and listenable, a testament to Foubert’s and McAlister’s ability to combine mastery of an instrument with respect for the audience.