Often, great ideas spring from the simplest of intentions. That initial spark of invention or creativity can spark off an unexpected chain reaction that can take you somewhere wholly unexpected and unintentional. For Daniel Brandt, best known as the drummer in experimental techno trio Brandt Brauer Frick, the idea was to record an album comprising solely of compositions made using only cymbals. However, after locking himself in his father’s cabin for three days, it quickly became apparent that the idea was not going to be possible as new and unforeseen concepts came to him that would necessitate the use of other instruments. Left with little choice but to explore these new approaches, Brandt traveled all over the world, experimenting with different types of instruments and other artists.
Achieving the sounds floating inside his head proved to be a unique challenge in itself. Despite being a proficient musician, Brandt found that he had to learn some of the instruments himself, demonstrating an admirable level of commitment to his vision. The resultant album sees Brandt performing all of the instrumentation including the guitar, bass, keyboards and synths. The only exceptions being the guest appearances of Florian Junker on trombone, Manu Delago on hang drum and Andreas Voss on cello. Whatever, ideas he had at the inception of this project, inevitably shifted as he was exposed to different environments and influenced by the artists and instruments he encountered along the way. If it was something of an unexpected journey for Brandt, then it is certainly unexpected for the listener as each song spins in often unusual directions as he challenges the expectations behind typical song composition and structure.
Opener “Chapparel Masa” is driven by a rudimentary, deliberate, repetitive single note guitar riff. Brandt cleverly arranges the additional instrumentation around this deceptively simple riff. Discordant jabs of orchestral noise shatter the mood before Brandt systematically puts the shards back together as the song continues. The whole thing takes flight a third of the way through as unconventional, percussive beats blink and fidget all while still circling the same three-note guitar riff. Brandt proves to be a master of utilizing simple structures to anchor his compositions which allows plenty of room for experimentation. For example,“White of the Eye” features a similarly repetitive three-note jazzy piano riff with the other melodies, hooks, and riffs allowed to hover and revolve around it.
Elsewhere,“FSG” hazily glides along featuring rolling, echoing synths before Brandt deftly introduces New Orleans style jazz trombones elevating the song still further to give it an incredible late night feel, like unexpectedly slipping into a smoky bar in New Orleans French quarter. “Turn Over” features autumnal swells of brass and sweeping orchestral rolls which loosen and lighten as the song floats on twinkling keys and warm, tender synths. “Kale Me” exploits the percussive elements of a piano as the song slowly builds with gentle, swirling malevolence. Brandt dexterously kicks the song into another gear as nimble, live jazz drums give it real momentum. It builds like a techno tune as the incessant beat takes it somewhere euphoric. It’s easy to forget that this is made by, ostensibly, one man playing all of the instruments.
“Eternal Something” is an intricate highlight of the album. Once again the tangled, skittering instrumentation wheels around an uncomplicated, simple piano motif. Nevertheless, Brandt uses the piano more like a DJ would as he gradually lets it build, giving it something of an old schoolhouse feel. As it tumbles down the other side of this peak, it threatens to break free completely from any semblance of structure but somehow manages to hold together despite straining at the seams. “Casa Fiesta” adds a little more brass as it features heavily distorted trumpet, which gives the song familiar warmth while maintaining the mood of experimentation. Album closer, “On the Move” is a slightly mournful, elegiac piece which feels like the end of a chapter as the various ends are steadily tied up.
This a beautiful yet surprisingly subtle album. Considering the fact that there are so many different instruments at play on each song, it is, at times, surprisingly understated. To Brandt’s credit, every instrument is used sparingly with no single one allowed to dominate. It also demonstrates how Brandt’s vision for the album developed over time. If it proved to be a journey of discovery for Brandt, then it also feels the same for the listener as Brandt builds songs around different instruments. Impressively, it never sounds disjointed or jarring or lurches from one genre to another. He manages to maintain the same mood and has crafted a sound, essentially all of his own. There is a vigorous, fluidity to the album with each song seemingly bursting with its own latent vitality. Some of the songs come across as perfect for the dance floor as they gentle build to a dizzying high, but they don’t, necessarily feel like club tunes. As a whole, the album is a testament to what can result from even the smallest of ideas. It also succinctly demonstrates what can happen if you don’t stick too rigidly to an original plan and just let yourself go where the creative flow takes you.