(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, October 10, 2011

CD review - Brian TV/Cold Coffee (2011)

A brain divided offers interesting musical perspectives

I covered Das Black Milk's Talk to Your Body last year, which featured an odd mix of post punk and lo-fi psychedelic sounds. Now two of the members have released a "split cassette" together with their respective side projects. Brian Emmert's Brian TV and Nathaniel Kane's Cold Coffee fit together like the two separated hemispheres of a brain. To some extent, they showcase their respective contributions to Das Black Milk's sound.

After listening to both of these EP length parts, it motivated me to pull out Talk to Your Body again, first for the context and then just for enjoyment.

The two projects are available on BandCamp (Brian TV/Cold Coffee)

Brian TV

Brian TV represents the right hemisphere of the project's musical brain. As such, it evokes a strong right brain response. On Automatic, the first track, I was instantly happy the moment the laid back beat kicked in. It spoke to some kind of subconscious escapist within me.

Automatic's groovy psychedelia sets up a carefree, lazy feel. The lyrics are simplistic a la Syd Barrett, but Brian TV is more musically structured. A chiming interlude rings in between the verses, emphasizing the heady vibe. This wasn't quite as produced as Tired Eyes from Das Black Milk, but it had a kind of simple purity.

This shows off Brian TV's musical approach, following an early psychedelic model. Emmert uses a pop foundation and then subverts it. Jiggly organ parts are paired with distorted guitars in a noisier version of Das Black Milk's typical sound.

Shifting mood, the next track shifts the mood. Chaingang Boogie has a stark arrangement of toms, bass, and a meandering organ line supporting a heavily reverbed vocal. It's not quite a Devo-style deconstruction, but it's close.

Back to psychedelia, Beverly Hills starts out as an uptempo garage psych rocker, but the breakdown bridge aspires to Pink Floyd trippiness -- check out the floaty organ and spacy lead. Then the beat reasserts itself into garage rock. The remaining tracks work the garage sound to perfection.

The beauty of garage psychedelia is that it's less polished than its rarified kin, allowing a deeper emotional response to the flow. Brian TV captures this beautifully.

Cold Coffee

In contrast, Cold Coffee appeals more to the left brain. The sounds are interesting and the tunes work at being artfully quirky. Kane's group emphasizes the other, new wave side of Das Black Milk's sound. It's like a lo-fi version of XTC crossed with Pere Ubu style experimentalism.

Opening track, Consolation Faces has some of XTC's early pop-oriented bounce with a twist, albeit with a mushier sound. The odd, angular melodic line in the chorus is a shout for attention, which is typical of Cold Coffee's songs.

Old Blood pushes the sound the furthest. A jerky beat, quirky singing, and chromatic lead noodling come together in something like Zappa's early Lumpy Gravy experiments or David Thomas' more outside work with Pere Ubu. This is anything but casual listening music, but the musical shifts are challenging and interesting.

Cold Coffee won't be everyone's cup of sushi, but it serves as shot of ginger to counter Brian TV's visceral trippiness. Follow the BandCamp links above and check out the music.

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