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Brandon Seabrook — Brutalovechamp
(Pyroclastic Records PR 27, 2023, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-12-03

Brutalovechamp Cover art

When presented with a recording where the name Brandon Seabrook appears, one thing can be considered certain: There is no predicting what it’s going to sound like. As a guitarist, composer, or collaborator, Seabrook brings a wide range of tools to the workshop, mostly centered around guitars and banjos (with and without electronic modification), though he certainly does unconventional things with both. I first noticed him in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, and then encountered him as a primary contributor in Three-Layer Cake. Brutalovechamp features an ensemble he calls Epic Proportions, referring more to its range of sound than its size. There are two double-bassists (Eivind Opsvik and Henry Fraser), a cello (Marika Hughes), a woodwind player (John McCowen on clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and alto and bass recorders), electronics (Chuck Bettis), and two percussionists (Sam Ospovat on drum kit, chimes, gongs, and vibraphone, and Nava Dunkelman on percussion and glockenspiel); Seabrook plays guitar, banjo, and manolin. Of the other musicians, Dunkelman is the only one I’m acquainted with — she was one half of IMA. This album’s title track starts with a plaintive recorder melody, unaccompanied on its first iteration, then backed by a delicate mandolin part, and you’re thinking this is some kind of Renaissance throwback. Then the cello and the basses come in, with decidedly modern chords, and the chromatic chaos begins. The drums and guitar enter to build up a jerky, angular groove which develops into something a little related to RIO chamber rock. Diverse as that piece is, there’s more to come. “The Perils of Self-Betterment” sounds like a group of musicians who’ve never met got together and sight-read a score from the 1920s where the parts may or may not have been transposed correctly and were written for different instruments anyway, only to be joined by R2-D2 and some other droids arguing. For the record, I would pay to see that movie. From beginning to end, Brutalovechamp is one of the most creative and entertaining albums of the year, and in spite of its unconventional and sometimes dissonant playing, is not really harsh or grating. It’s just good weird fun.

Filed under: New releases, 2023 releases

Related artist(s): Brandon Seabrook

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