[23 June 2010]
Brasstronaut’s full-length debut album, Mt. Chimaera, is a rousing success. Groups that incorporate unusual instruments into an indie-rock stew are commonplace by now, but rarely do they sound as smooth as this. The band uses a combination of keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn, and saxophone and clarinet sounds to recall the jazz-inflected pop music of the ‘70s, but somehow manages to leave the cheesiness out. This compelling, offbeat mixture is aided by strong songwriting throughout the album, and with only eight tracks running over 40 minutes, there’s no filler here.
Opener “Slow Knots” utilizes electric piano and muted trumpet along with skittering drums for a compelling minor-key breakup song, while the soft slow-burn of second track “Hand Behind” gives way to a bright acoustic guitar coda in the song’s final two minutes. “Lo Hi Hopes” is what amounts to a driving rocker for Brasstronaut, but it still finds time for dueling trumpet and soprano sax solos. “Six Toes” is an exciting klezmer-like song anchored by rolling piano and clarinet. Again and again, the band manages to find an effective groove and mine it for all it’s worth. “Hearts Trompet” makes great use of jazzy upright bass, while complex closer “Insects” hits upon a late-night funk feel for three of its eight minutes, then lies back to let trumpeter Bryan Davies solo before closing out with a nearly completely different feel. It would be easy for this type of music to trip right over the edge into a cheesy mess, but the band’s self-assurance and Edo Van Breemen’s light, breezy singing style keep Brasstronaut in full control.