Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Brown Cloud - Sax by Candlelight [Debacle]/Zac Nelson - The Same Hypnotic Point [Debacle]

Debacle Fest came and went pretty awesomely last weekend and featured some surprisingly good weather as well as killer performances by Matt Carlson, Pulse Emitter, Karnak Temples and Brother Raven among many others. In the wake of said fest, I bring two members of the Debacle family who unfortunately did not play last weekend.
While the title and artwork gives the impression you're getting some kind of Sexy Sax Man soft-jazz goof-off, Brown Cloud is a trio of sax/synth, guitar and drums and they sound pretty serious. Sax by Candlelight is comprised of two 25ish minute improvisations, the first of which, "Hard Jack," is all drone baby. Well for a good while anyway. The track evolves slowly and about halfway through the drum kit comes to life whipping out some free drum solos against brooding guitar and keys. Things get pretty loud at the peak setting up for a slow wind down. The drummer's still goin' at it hardcore too while the other members are dropping in bent harmonics and controlled feedback until ultimately ending as quietly as the track began.
The second track, "Sewerface" is my favorite between the two. Beginning with lots of silence, scattered percussive hits, saxophonic whines here and there. About 5 or 6 minutes in, things start clanging. The sax and drums duke it out while the guitar provides the dramatic lighting. All the pent-up rage builds and builds, the guitar unleashes some brown thunderclouds and the drummer has another one of his awesome free jazz fits. It's a pretty epic noise-rock-jazz-styled piece of improv up to that point and then the drummer, who I might as well identify by name, Chris Icasiano,  sets the whole thing up to launch into the stratosphere. He pounds out the same regimented, decidedly unjazzy rhythm over and over by himself for a few minutes and then his bandmates slowly unfurl a poison cloud of drones and electronic squelch all the while Mr. Icasiano is crushing his kit. The dude doesn't stop. It's the presence of the militaristic drums that ignites the volatile mixture of guitar and electronics. The dude does not stop. Chris Icasiano you are a fucking champ. This is awesome.
I'd been wanting to hear this Zac Nelson guy for awhile. He's got a nice pedigree with a couple things on Weird Forest, Bathetic and Field Hymns.
The Same Hypnotic Point is a perfect title for this record as whether it's with the round, airy drones of "Grown Home" or the layered, circular clatter of "Love Me with a Body You Respect" Nelson commands your attention. The latter lasts nearly 18 minutes and may be the best track on the album. The first part is overwhelmingly constructed out of clattering percussive loops with occasional multi-tracked vocals. Near the midway point all the whizbang percussion theatrics are gradually usurped by waves of glistening keys. It's ethereal and dramatic and oh so fantastic. Even my girlfriend digs it. The other competitor for favorite track status is "Blue Jack.." Talk about flippin' the script, "Blue Jack" is an abstract dance floor throbber with uncredited female vocals. The track vacillates between steady groovin' and arrhymthic drum machine freakouts. Nelson shifts things up into a more placid, leisurely section before cranking the beat confounding back up again. Then he flips it back to more consonant vibes and then... Never sitting still, constantly evolving; the track never lets you settle in but manages to entice you to chase it. Wild track. "Ecaepekaf" ("fakepeace" backwards in case you didn't catch it) really mellows things out. Thick washes of synth and sparse acoustic plucks create quite a beautiful field of sound. "Holidaze" rattles vivaciously embedded in broad swaths of keyboards while the closer "Lumps of Leaves" layers stereo-panned acoustic guitars on each other while filling in the cracks with more keyboards and the gentle jangle of chimes. This is a neat little record with a great vibe; it's the perfect thing to put on and chill to. Zac Nelson has an LP on the way via Debacle so The Same Hypnotic Point is a perfect primer. 
Both discs are still available from Debacle and come in professional, full color fold-out CD wallets. Check 'em out!

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