Two new CDs, from Basic Astronomy and Bright Brown
Bright Brown, Brooklyn-grown good soul and rustle
Bright Brown was formed on the G train, which is quite a good ride for the G, considering many people call it the Ghost Train. Nick Smeraski, with a slew of drum cases, met Alex Nahas en route from Park Slope to Williamsburg and the current lineup of Bright Brown was formed, Nick on drums and Alex on Chapman stick, playing and singing. Their new CD, No Matter How Faint There's Light In Everything comes at you with dark heart and plea. From the first yearning, "Are You Listening" to the last song, "King of Thirst," Nahas' voice is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time, the music layering over and under like sweet and sorrow. The lyrics are poetic and thoughtful and arrangements carefully wrought so that the sadness is placed in glimmers of light, melodies in a comforting bed of sound. The drums are gentle and solid, hitting the spot, in a perfect setting for the sparse, yet somehow also rich, textures of the songs. Recorded, mixed and produced at Head Gear Studios and Bright Brown Sound by the band members themselves gives the CD depth and authenticity. My favorite track has got to be "Aurel," for its sweetness and homey feel. All around, a haunting, intriguing excursion. Just close your eyes and listen to this one, preferably on headphones, so you can lose yourself in the world of the songs and learn something about where inner and outer landscapes meet.
You can go to myspace.com/brightbrown for a preview of the CD and tour dates.
Basic Astronomy, Lessons in Being an Earthbound Astronaut
Imagine, a CD that took seven years to make and it's just 23 minutes. All the instruments are hand-played. Imagine a 1920s brick building, 500 feet from a double-decker freeway. And David Haldeman, joined by friends, among them Greg Dunn, on guitar, recording this modern CD, DIY and old school. The method matches the sound. From the first notes of "Books," the first song on Slow News Day, I was taken into another time and place. There is a romance that is old-time and hallucinatory to the music of this CD. Haldeman's voice is sultry, in a postmodern, humble kind of way. I do not use the word "postmodern" ever, but it fits here, as the music and sounds and voices are placed in this modern time, where we are now, but have an innocence and psychedelia to them that is transcendent. There is an incorporation and flawless blending of modern and old-time, rubbing cheeks with folksy, idealistic roots while standing firmly in this day and age. Songs like "Captain Salt Is Dead" are beautiful, sad fairy tales told to adults, who still are sad about things that happened two hundred years ago. The title track is another image-laden story and the listener is carried along pleasantly, lulled into some sort of half-sleep, woken up by the seemingly upbeat "Wave that Flag," then realizing that this story isn't any happier. "Bicycle Song" wraps up the lineup with a note of hope and love and down-homeness. The overall impact of Slow News Day is of being pelted by gigantic cotton balls in a field of poppies. Not a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
You can find more at myspace.com/basicastronomy.