You know you’re in for awesomeness with the Meehan/Perkins Duo’s Travel Diary when you see the brontosaurus and tyrannosaurus rex invading the album’s cover art.
The anomaly is not without metaphor: Percussion (the game of Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins) is an old dinosaur of an instrument, apparent in music history as soon as ancient man realized that hitting two things together creates a sound. But the dull thumps and thwacks have become more refined in recent decades thanks to a greater curiosity surrounding the instrument family’s repertoire from musicians and composers like John Luther Adams, So Percussion and Meehan/Perkins—the last of which released a bang-up album of works from the 1930s just over a year ago.
On Travel Diary, Meehan/Perkins go back to the future, building up to their centerpiece and title track by Paul Lansky. Though kettle drums and hi-hats can signal the rumblings of a turbulent ride, this four-movement meditation is nothing but smooth, at times even sublime, sailing that starts with preparations to leave home, escalating to tropopausal altitude, taking a detour to get maddeningly yet deliberately off-course and ending up with the sigh of relief upon arrival. It’s the kind of work that gets you through interminable TSA lines, the boarding process, taxiing and baggage claim.
Meehan/Perkins build up to this grand tour with a trio of pre-flight cocktails. Tristan Perich’s Observations is baroquely 1-bit, glittering with a Respighi-esque buoyance and completes Nathan Davis’s Diving Bell, devoted to the humble triangle. Completing the ride is David Lang’s table of contents, an ode to variety shows in the vein of John Cage experimentalism. No dinosaurs roam this disc.