The drum circle goes electric Saturday at the Burlington | Bleader

The drum circle goes electric Saturday at the Burlington


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On Saturday the Burlington will host something billed as the debut of an "electronic percussive collective": Drum Machine Circle. That's not a band name—the event will consist of a bunch of people forming an ad hoc group and playing together, in the vein of the oft-maligned drum circle. They'll just be using drum machines instead of hand drums.

Experimental noise artist and Nihilist Records honcho Andy Ortmann, who organized the show, got the idea in the mid-90s, when he noticed an influx of people holding drum circles. He'd been collecting drum machines for years, and something clicked. "It just kind of made sense," he says. "Why isn't there an electronic drum circle?"

Ortmann has kept the idea of a drum-machine circle alive in the back of his mind since then, but this is the first time desire and opportunity have coincided. He'd originally set up a show for Saint Louis noise musician Joe Raglani on Sat 1/28 at the Burlington, but Raglani bowed out. Rather than fill his spot with another musician, Ortmann decided to debut his long-dormant idea.

The drum-machine circle is something of a free-for-all. Anyone can play, regardless of skill level. And the drum machines won't be synchronized, partly because not all the units can be synched up and partly because that would go against the style Ortmann envisions. "I didn't really want to go that route," he says, "because it would be too clean and too neat. I like the idea of being chaotic."

Plenty of variables are sure to affect the sound—like how many people show up to play, how long they keep at it, and how many bring their own amplifiers (as Ortmann recommends). At the moment Ortmann isn't too sure how involved he'll be. "I was debating whether or not I was even gonna perform in it at all," he says. "I just like the idea of putting the idea out there and seeing people run with it." If he does take part, he says he'll be using a Roland CompuRhythm CR-5000.

Ortmann does have some advice for folks attending the show. "If they're going to be a performer, I strongly suggest they bring a drum machine," he says. "As an audience member, it's really hard to say. I guess keep an open mind." He says he won't turn away anyone who wants to play, even if they don't have a machine. "I had one person that said they were actually gonna come and beatbox."

The show starts at 9 PM. There's a $7 suggested donation, $5 if you're broke. Ortmann will open, as will Jeremiah Fisher of Oakeater, winner of last year's Synthesizer Chili Cook-Off.