Frank Rosaly’s solo drumming effort, Milkwork, explores the process of free-improvisation with both acoustic and electronically manipulated percussion instruments. Frank has developed a personal and often visceral method and approach to drumming, whereby motion is the primary element to the creation of sound. Deliberate gestures that may or may not produce sounds often leads to surprising, exiting and raw discoveries both for the listener and for the performer. Though a large component of the music is created through improvisation, the music is constructed using many compositional concepts such as the Song Form, Minimalist techniques (ala La Monte Young, Steve Reich, Terry Riley), and 'additive' or layering process often heard in modern electronic music. Milkwork also draws inspiration from the likes of percussionists Milford Graves, Tony Buck and Billy Higgins.
Using contact microphones, oscillators, effects pedals and analog synthesizers along side an acoustic drum set up, Milkwork navigates a wide sonic palette: Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Jazz and non-idiomatic grooves using unconventional techniques, dense Free-Jazz vocabulary, heavy drones and feedback, as well as a soft, subtle percussive language.


"The day that Frank Rosaly began recording Milkwork, he woke late, got stuck in traffic, and tried to rescue a kitten that got thrown out a car window and took refuge in his engine only to learn that the no-kill shelter sends kitties to the pound. Nope, not a good day- and you can really hear Rosaly blowing off some steam with the heavy wallop you hear "NY Prices!"Quite different are the focused, carefully modulated cymbal figures that follow on "Calcetines," and the confused-clock rhythmic variations and elusive electronic washes that punctuate "Burnshine." This may be a solo percussion record, but not one of drum solos. The sound world he works in lies closer to This Heat or Xenakis than the jazz and improv he practices with Rolldown, Valentine Trio, or pianist Paul Giallorenzo's group. And it's testament to his grace under pressure that he executes this music with as much clarity and precision as force. A feline aside: my cat is usually completely uncurious about music, but when I spun Milkwork's milky white vinyl prior to writing this review, he stuck his head into the stereo cabinet for the first time ever." -Bill Meyer

Milkwork, an intriguing solo drum—and occasional electronics—album (on his preferred format of vinyl). It’s a subtle, coloristically poetic journey, luring the ear and mind without undue bashing or splashing.
--Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara Independent

Drummer Frank Rosaly has established himself as one of the finest players on the fertile Chicago scene, an indispensable presence over the years at lively spaces like 3030 and the Hungry Brain. He's also thankfully been documented somewhat regularly of late, including on a fine album of duets with Dave Rempis. Part of this documentation includes Rosaly's own label output, most notably the superb solo album (where he plays electronics as well) Milkwork, on awesome white vinyl. Those hesitant about solo percussion will be pleased by Rosaly's taste and inventiveness. The opening "Adolescents" sets the tone with nice hand-drumming, Roach-like polyrhythms and soft splashes. This kind of spaciousness and textural approach characterizes the bulk of the music. Even on tracks like "NY Prices," with its busy rushes of sound and woody click-clack, there are tons of pauses, Rosaly always attuned to pacing and dynamics. This isn't to say that things don't coalesce regularly into glorious grooves. But when they do, the sound is like high life music played by a one-man band, occasionally receding into a backdrop of bells or simply overloading with sound. Beyond its tendency to move between the grooving and the spacious, the music is idiomatically varied as well. He strips back the kit to just hand bells and hi-hat (with what sound like modest preparations) on "Four Bright Red Dots" and dials up some jarring lo-fi electronics and an accordion on "Zoquete." And with the concluding "He Junkin'" Rosaly is at his most energetic, even as he maintains impressive focus, playing around with the idea of staggered momentum, weaving between laser beams. This is one of the better solo percussion discs I've heard in some time. With his slow progression through patterns, Rosaly never overwhelms things with technique, focusing instead on narrative and space.
For those who like it slightly more conventional, Rosaly has also released a limited edition 7-inch (also on milky white vinyl) containing two live tracks from 2005 where he brings the heat alongside tenorist Keefe Jackson. Jackson has a nice big tone and he plays declamatory lines that recall late Trane, as Rosaly brings a kind of Roy Haynes crackle and pop to the music. "Word Made Fresh" is more poised and contained, while "Real Absence" is raw, crying. It's a nice vivid slice of live energy, with each 4-minute track a tonic.
--Jason Bivins

...the soundscapes created by the percussionist are ones to get lost in. The sounds inspire memories of great anger and despair, but also times of pure calm and hope. It’s not often that I am moved so deeply and through so many emotions by a piece of music but, as I write this, I still find myself reeling. --Alex De Vore, Santa Fe Reporter

Amazing work from Frank Rosaly -- a drummer who's really making some great waves on the Chicago scene in recent years! The album's a beautiful solo set that has Frank mixing drums with electronics -- all in a spare space that's got a wonderful textural quality, similar to European experiments of this nature from a few decades back, and with an equally classic feel! Rosaly gets some really amazing sounds out of his drum kit -- acoustic moments that are as compelling as the electric ones -- and throughout the set, things are relatively rhythmic and almost inside -- not nearly as noisy or bombastic as other players might sound in such a setting, which is one more reason our hat's off to Frank.
--Dusty Groove

Alongside solo saxophone or solo trumpet recitals, solo percussion workouts are among the most curious formats for invention in this music. It's also incredibly difficult to pull off an engaging slab of unaccompanied percussion, which is why the "good" ones stand out. Chicago-based drummer Frank Rosaly—a regular collaborator with such figures as saxophonist-composer Dave Rempis, trumpeter Josh Berman and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz—has really outdone himself on Milkwork, his vinyl-only solo debut. Admittedly, while Rosaly's sideman work has long been impressive, his penchant for subtlety might make one wonder what he'd come up with left to his own devices. The answer is a one-man dialogue of the drums, referencing the compositional approaches of Andrew Cyrille, Pierre Favre and Andrea Centazzo and colliding with minimalist phase-relationships and hip-hop scuffle. The first side emphasizes acoustic playing more greatly; the stone-skipping loop of "NY Prices" a loosely-wound series of rejoinders after the dense and fuzzy "Adolescence," while "Four Bright Red Dots" is a bodily merger of Central Africa and South Asia (indeed, "Zoquete," a multi-national celebratory procession, is one of the most captivating minutes on the set). Like all but one of the discs reviewed here, Rosaly's solo playing eschews category for a grand and highly structured sense of individuality.
--Clifford Allen, All About Jazz

Rosaly’s drumming is easily recognizable, on record and live . It melts between the perfect complimentary player and the ultimate standout. His rhythms are unstoppable and perfectly timed. His solos are imaginative and expressive.
--Adam Kivel, Consequence of Sound

Last year Chicago drummer Frank Rosaly released a homemade three-CD set of solo music called Milkwork (Molk), where he used real-time processing and blurts of electronic noise to buffett and caress intricate, fluid patterns and grooves played on drum kit, gongs, and tuned metal bowls. Recently Rosaly told me he deemed the set a failure, and though I don’t agree, I certainly don’t mind that he’s trying again. A new disc called Milkwork is due in January on Contraphonic (he’ll have copies at this show), and in its neatly structured improvisations he focuses more closely on polymetric exploration, a la Milford Graves and Jerome Cooper, using his hands and feet independently to hold down as many as four different rhythmic threads—some metered, some with only a pulse, and some with neither. In the record’s latter half especially, Rosaly leans on his electronic rig—a combination of contact microphones, oscillators, effects pedals, and analog synths—to trigger squiggly figures and long tones that intersect with his drumming. Tonight he’ll play a solo set and then join a new quintet called Oxbow for a set of his compositions; its lineup also includes vibist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and clarinetists Jason Stein, James Falzone, and Keefe Jackson, all on different horns. Josh Abrams spins.
Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Drummer Frank Rosaly has become an indispensable part of the local jazz and improvised-music scene—he’s got a sharp sense of time, an imaginative vocabulary, and a knack for knowing just what a given context requires, whether it’s the tumultuous free improv of the Rempis Percussion Quartet or the vintage tunes of Josh Berman & His Gang. But he’s also developed a rigorous solo practice, where he focuses on color and texture using a hybrid setup of percussion and electronics. Rosaly is hardly the first to combine the two—Jon Mueller, Jason Kahn, and most notably Paul Lytton have all incorporated electronics into their improvising—but his approach is distinctively elegant and controlled. On the three-CD set Milkwork (Molk) he carefully warps the sounds of tuned metal bowls, gongs, and of course his trap kit with real-time processing; fractured rhythms propagate through fun-house refractions, slow-moving figures swell and ebb, and digital sizzles and beeps pepper his acoustic drum patterns. And on “Apathy of a Cow,” a recent online-only track released as part of Contraphonic’s Little Hell series, he buffets a low-end drone with lacerating electronics, then ends with a gentle scattering of bell-like percussion. The Friction Brothers headline; Rosaly opens with a solo set, then plays in a trio with drummers Jonathan Crawford and Michael Zerang. The show is a benefit for Scrappers, a documentary by Brian Ashby, Ben Kolak, and Courtney Prokopas about local men who work salvaging scrap metal; the filmmakers will screen excerpts and host an audience discussion with some of the scrappers.
—Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader