AMN Reviews: Brandon Seabrook – Die Trommel Fatale (2017; New Atlantis Records)

Even amongst types of music that are often referred to as “unclassifiable,” there occasionally comes a release that is a literal representation of that term. Brandon Seabrook has been kicking around the New York scene for years, collaborating with Anthony Braxton, Elliot Sharp, Ches Smith, Toby Driver, Allison Miller, and others. While known as a purveyor of avant-banjo, he relies on his guitar and compositional skills for Die Trommel Fatale, his latest release as a leader. Joined by Chuck Bettis on voice and electronics, drummers Dave Treut and Sam Ospovat, Marika Hughes on cello, and Eivind Opsvik on bass, Seabrook powers through ten rhythmically angular and thematically frenzied tracks.

With a nod to the no-wave movement, The Flying Luttenbachers in particular, Seabrook and company also incorporate influences from (or at least similarities to) Euro post-punk (e.g., The Work) and Japan’s noise scene (e.g., Ruins). Front and center is the two-drummer assault, with each of Treut and Ospovat playing in diverging but complimentary directions. Seabrook adds staggered speed riffing to their frantic contributions. But the album also has a schizophrenic nature, in that several tracks employ Bettis, Hughes, and Opsvik to create haunting chamber atmospherics, over which Seabrook adds arpeggiated chords and Bettis offers shouted or chanted wordless vocals.

In sum, if you take punk-metal guitar and vocals with unconventional and aggressive percussion, all pulled off by conservatory-trained musicians also capable of free-improv blow outs, you still probably don’t quite get Die Trommel Fatale, but that’s not a bad place to start. An impressively weird release.

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