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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Headbrain (Desert Poodle Records, 2011) ***½

By Paul Acquaro

Much of the music that I've reviewed here, usually in some abstracted way, has jazz underpinnings (though that is not the case with all of the other recordings reviewed here). Headbrain, however, is creating intriguing improvisational music that has its roots in rock and ambient music. For me, it's exciting to step outside my milieu and listen with the fresh attentiveness that newness brings, and from what I can hear, this is a trio following a trend and trajectory of their own.

The album begins with a percussive clatter and proceeds from there with ample keyboards and effects. The straight ahead beat and eviscerating effects at the start of 'The Day the Earth Turned to Stone' buoys the swirling organ and electronic washes that sounds, to me, somehow suggestive of a robot's digestive tract. It's a foreboding song that is tough but still accessible, and a nice set-up to the 'horror' that follows. Possibly lifting a cue from an Alice Cooper album that never was, the group delivers a soundscape that ostensibly explores the mind of a disturbed young man. It's a bit spooky and retains a good deal of campy fun. The songs 'Wonders of Shad' and 'Minimal Space' shift the tone considerably. Both feature variations of programmed synths and abstract melodies. The final song 'Coefficient River' is a long unfolding composition that seemingly celebrates the life of a strange and beautiful algorithm. The varying combination of straight ahead rhythms and oscillating electronics is both slightly discomfiting and, at the same time, warm.

Headbrain is comprised of Elizabeth Walsh on bass and keyboards, Adam Budofsky playing drums and effects, and Carl Baggaley on keyboards and synths. The electronics and effects are key elements in the construction and sculpting of the sound, adding depth and texture to the soundscapes.

Overall, who plays what instrument probably doesn't really matter, it is a collective voice that we hear, interdependent and intertwined. There is a feeling like this is a group whose sound is evolving and it will be interesting to see where it goes.

Available through eMusic or CDBaby

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