For someone who didn't start playing music until after high school, Lukas Ligeti is a pretty accomplished musician -- to say the least. The Austrian composer and percussionist, now living in New York City, is quickly making a name for himself and his mixture of percussion techniques (plucked from different traditions worldwide) and electronic experimentation.
The son of well-known composer György Ligeti, he took composition in college and has traveled extensively, studying African music in particular. His latest album, Afrikan Machinery, released on John Zorn's prolific Tzadik label this year, utilizes African polyrhythmic styles created largely through electronics.
But it's not laptop music -- Ligeti points out in the liner notes that he strives to create electronic music with a sense of motion, a physicality that's missing when musicians are simply touching buttons and turning knobs. Instead, he uses electronic instruments that involve actual percussive motions.
Afrikan Machinery is reminiscent of some of the more well-known percussive composers -- Steve Reich, Arnold Dreyblatt -- with an element of glitch thrown in. In many of the tracks, Ligeti creates layer upon layer of rhythm, utilizing different pitches but not always creating a melody. While at times the music requires concentration, at other times, such as on the track "Great Circle's Tune II" especially, it just works -- a number of unrelated elements combine to create a soothing vortex of sound.
Ligeti performs nearly all of the tracks from the CD in his live repertoire, adding a physical element to the hypnotic sounds. He plays at the Wood Street Galleries on Fri., Nov. 7, as part of the ongoing Radical Riffs series, playing a solo set and also collaborating with local percussionists Elie Kihona and Nick Ragheb.
Radical Riffs presents Lukas Ligeti with Elie Kihona and Nick Ragheb. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 7. Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St., Downtown. $8 suggested donation ($6 students). 412-471-5605