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.

Future Shows, Past Shows

Catching up after a week in NYC…

Two interesting shows coming up:

* Karl Evangelista’s Taglish — at The Jazzschool in Berkeley, Friday, Nov. 16. Taglish, also the title of Evangelista’s latest album, is a mix of Filipino folk music, jazz, prog, and 20th-century adventurousness.

The “jazz” part figures quite heavily on the album — “Reb” has a swingy big-band sound and vocals by Rei Scampavia (Evangelisa’s wife and the other half of Grex), while “Dreams (Part C)” has a heavier, modern sound with long composed lines over a chugging riff. The rest of the band has quite a jazz pedigree too: Francis Wong (sax), John-Carlos Perea (bass), and Jordan Glenn (drums).

Evangelista describes Taglish as being in the extended-jazz vein of Asian Improv Records, which for years has released jazz tinged with Asian musics and a touch of experimentalism. It’s good stuff covering a wide variety of musical styles and ideas, staying true to concepts of melody and song while tossing in some free-jazz elements as well.

* Lisa Mezzacappa and Marika Hughes — Performing separately as part of the New Frequencies Fest at Yerba Buena Gardens, also on Nov. 16.

Marika Hughes is a cellist and singer who’s played with Charming Hostess and Carla Kihlstedt’s 2 Foot Yard. She’ll be performing songs as well as solo cello works written for her. Bassist Mezzacappa will be playing with Fay Victor, a jazz vocalist with a taste for edgy experimenting.

One show that’s passed, that I’m sorry to have missed blogging about or attending:

* Klaxon Mutant All-Stars and These Are Our Hours — The “Offside 2×5” concert presented by Live ‘n’ Local. A follow-up to the SF Offside festival, featuring a couple of composition-oriented jazz quintets. Details are on the Fenderhardt blog.

So, yes, I was in New York, after superstorm Sandy, solely in parts of town inland enough to have avoided any real damage. I saw Jim Black perform twice, once with Nels Cline. I caught a show at the Village Vanguard. I wandered all around Central Park to hear jazz standards. I saw a string group led by the aforementioned Marika Hughes. I got exposed to a nifty little art spot that’s opened up in downtown Brooklyn.

I’ve saved some notes and photos that will probably make it onto this blog over time. Meanwhile, I’ve got a small stack of CDs from Downtown Music Gallery to work through. Glad to be back in the California sun.