Friday, September 19, 2008

Reviews:: Brasstronaut Old World Lies


Brasstronaut is almost impossible to describe as a band. Not because their sound is so different that it defies classification, although to be fair, there aren't any bands that combine sounds the same way they do. No, it's more that they use so many familiar elements and styles on their four song EP, that words sort of lose meaning.

In theory it should be simple – I mean how much variation can you have with only a trumpet, piano, double bass and drums – but with a tip of the cap to space rock, improve filled jazz and surprising moments of catchy piano pop, Brasstronaut (a name that gains more meaning once you’ve listened) songs tread on the territory of a stereotypical high school reunion. On the surface, you are familiar with most of what's going on, but the unexpected changes and developments are as stunning as they are enjoyable.

Old World Lies opens with the eight-minute opus, Insects; a song led by Edo’s piano and Bryan’s trumpet – fitting as the duo started the band back in ’05 before enlisting Brennan and John’s help – and the brass and ivory forge a terrific sound. But it’s not until the drums kick in that you start to see what Brasstronaut is capable off. Using monk (or maybe Monk) like patience, the tone of the song matches Edo’s restraint and frustration and builds the anticipation and it’s not until Edo's reached the point of giving up (left simply repeating that he’s 'sick of your shit') that the improvisation and chaos starts to bubble to the top and the raw energy takes over.

Even though Insects is listed as one 8-minutes effort, it feels like about three songs. At the 4:45 mark, the band switches gears into the theatrical style you’d expect from such talented musicians steeped in tradition. The slow strings and piano give the song a more introspective feel, but one that gives way to empowering horns and staccato drum fills and races to the finish.

The ability to play off each other and understand chord progressions and scales lets Brasstronaut add depth to their songs. Again, while that might seem obvious for a band that dabbles in classical styles, the five-minute jam Fan opens your ears to the benefits. Again, Edo starts with a confident piano line coupled with some gentle drums but it is Bryan’s trumpet that jumpstarts the number. As Edo continues to bang out the catchy piano line, Bryan and Brennan have the freedom to explore without losing the audience.

For me, the highlight of this debut EP is the perfectly named, Requiem for a Scene. The track dances into the theatrical (like the piano breakdown almost two-minutes in or the group vocals that take over for the last minute) but for the most part of the song, Bryan’s horn work and Edo’s pseudo Brit pop vocals drive an incredibly catchy track and that’s really what makes Brasstronaut click. Even with all their talent, they understand that sometimes a simple riff or idea is what the listener needs and the experimentation and freedom has to take a back shelf until the time is right.

They build a stable foundation that locks you in place and as a result, they have the freedom to unfold textures and emotion on a whim. They hit the listener with familiar phrases and ideas - hearing Edo admit that today "it's all Vice Magazines and cocaine" should grab any doubting hipster's ear - but they dress up the words with classic trumpet and piano to make a sound that pushes borders. Sure it's only four songs, but it's as creative as anything coming out in today's music world.

Posted at 8:15 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 4:17 AM, Blogger The Matt and Dan Show did sayeth:

You've successfully created two new fans of Brasstonaut. The title of the track seems almost novelty but the tune itself is really good. Thank you posting.

Matt and Dan


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