Record Review: Mako Sica & Hamid Drake’s “Ronda”

It may take a village to raise a child and two record labels (Feeding Tube and Astral Spirits) to put out this album, but it only takes one master drummer to elevate a group to new heights. Mako Sica is a Chicago-based trio descended from art-rock ensemble Rope with a knack for pulling eerie atmospherics out of the improvisational moment. Percussionist Hamid Drake is one of the great improvising drummers of his generation, but despite enduring connections with the likes of William Parker and Peter Brötzmann, he remains wide open to new encounters.

An initial collaboration onstage went well enough for Drake and Mako Sica to check into the studio twice. The mostly side-long pieces are like journeys that wind patiently through an uncharted landscape of mood and sound combinations. Wordless vocals and echo-laden instrumentation keep things spooky, but it’s the purposeful change-up of rhythmic ideas and means that make the sonic narrative gripping.

—Bill Meyer