The Brain-Frying World of Brandon Seabrook

Brandon SeabrookDie Trommel Fatale (New Atlantis, 2017)

I’ve previously written about Brandon Seabrook’s aggressive approach to guitar. I’d observed that he adds a keen edge to Mostly Other People Do the Killing and a choppy energy to Eivind Opsvik’s albums.

That was before I heard his solo stuff. Good gawd.

That’s from the 2014 album Sylphid Vitalizers, and it consists of Seabrook on many overdubbed banjos — each played in real time — with the help of a drum machine. Two of the album’s five tracks also include the menacing shred of Seabrook’s guitar.

seabrook-dieIf Seabrook slows down a little on his new album, Die Trommel Fatale, it’s only because he’s now painting with a wider range of colors, making use of a full band that includes three string players.

But the craziness is not dialed down. His guitar still throws ninja stars at your face, complex and intentionally ugly melodies that are going to hurt if you don’t brace yourself. The rough edge gets even rougher with the contributions of vocalist Chuck Bettis — grunting and shrieking in Yamataka Eye mode — and the doomsday drumming of Sam Ospovat and Dave Treut.

The strings sweeten the mix here and there (Marika Hughes on cello and Opsvik on bass), but they, too, can be applied to aggressive effect, as you can hear deep in the mix on “Clangorous Vistas.”

I wrote the other day about Burning Ghosts, the band adeptly mixing jazz and metal. Seabrook is doing the same, you might say, but drawing from different pools of “jazz” and “metal.”

Burning Ghosts is about metal, with its stonewall guitars and rumbling demonic aesthetic. Seabrook taps a cousin music that’s closer to punk and noise. It’s just as hardcore but more trebly, with high-strung guitars articulating melodies that dig up as much darkness and discomfort as possible.

Some guys, when they play this kind of stuff — you think “Whoa. Where’d that come from?” Bill Frisell in Naked City comes to mind. Not Seabrook. I’d seen only a few pictures of him before, but once I dropped the needle on Die Trommel Fatale, it was like: “Oh yeah. I shoulda guessed.”

Moments not to miss include the digitized voice “solo” on “Quickstep Grotesquerie,” the lingering prog/metal of “The Greatest Bile, Part 2,” and the channel-flipping blend of jazzy strings, gloopy electronics, and shredding guitar on “Abscessed Pettifogger.”

I’ll leave you with a promo video for “Emotional Cleavage.” Be warned: It’s a little bit gruesome, although the ending is priceless.


Seabrook also has a trio album coming out in October. Catch a preview on Bandcamp.

It’s Not the Jitters. It’s the Music.

Eivind OpsvikOverseas V (Loyal Label, 2017)

opsvik vIf I had to pick an overarching mood for bassist Eivind Opsvik‘s Overseas V, I’d say nervous energy. The compositions practically quiver with it.

“Izo” feels faster than it really is, for example, because the moderately fast bassline is augmented by a rolling, relentless guitar riff and tumbling bits of piano and sax. Some music conveys emotion; this track conveys “Keep moving, for god’s sake!”

Many of the songs, such as “I’m Up This Step” and “Brraps!,” are based on off-kilter repetition. The former sets up an angular, crooked space, with boundaries drawn and sometimes broken by Kenny Wolleson’s drums and Brandon Seabrook’s choppy guitar. “Brraps!” feels like it’s constantly shifting. You start off-balance, and then the music gives you a shove.

Judging by Opsvik’s comic pantomiming in video for “Brraps!,” that’s just the effect he’s going for.

Even the more serene tracks are deceptive. “Shoppers and Pickpockets” morphs from peaceful ballad mode into spiky piano from Jacob Sacks, augmented with Tony Malaby’s murmurs of sax. The cool, fluid “Extraterrestrial Tantrum” builds into shifting stormy melodies, undercut by what sounds like electronic percussion and Opsvik’s own echoey arco bass.

I’ve been aware of Opsvik and his Overseas album series, but this is my first time listening closely to his blend of cerebral jazz and jittery rock. The slower, pretty tracks are well worth your time, but the majority of the album is out to get your fingers and toes moving, if not more.

Overseas V is available on Bandcamp and eMusic, among other places.