A combination of innovative original instrumental music focusing on keyboards and guitar serve as the primary entry point for this month's DaveCromwellWrites Feature. As this site continues to evolve, a greater appreciation for musicians composing and recording works that focus on art over repetitive commercial pursuits grows exponentially. That said, when a quality pop song emerges out of the seemingly endless sea of replication, that too will always find a place for close listen and evaluation here.
Holding true to the old axiom of how discovering one artist often leads you to another, Brian Charette finds his way onto this site following last month's deep dive into the music of Oz Noy. Noticing the high-quality, double-tiered Hammond B3 playing he contributed to Noy's “Looni Tooni” made it an easy decision to dig further into Brian's work.
A brand new full-length album “Like The Sun” is set for release on December 1, 2020 that features 13 mostly new original compositions. Recorded during the first months of lock down, these instrumental tracks forge a new hybrid sound that combine electronic beats with the richness of traditional organ sounds.
Opening cut “15 Minutes of Fame” lays out a funky robotic groove with a sharp, synthetic descending keyboard line surrounded by otherworldly textures. Lush, dreamy atmospherics alter the mood in-between in a most pleasurable way, before Brian's improvisational organ soloing commences. What's impressive is how nearly all of this record was recorded live in one take, reacting to random programming changes via the accompanying autogenerated beats and chords.
You can see and hear this happening live-in-that-moment via the below video (and 2nd album track) for “TimePiece.” Looking down on Brian's impressive rig of keyboards, samplers, drum machines and tone generators, the composer kicks off a mechanized beat and programmed chord progression. Taking to his highest-point mounted keyboard, sweetly piercing flute-like tones are the first to be played, establishing a central melody. Moving down one level to his mixer, audio samples and percussive bursts are initiated on the spot. As the song enters a defined chord change section, Brian drops to his third-tier down keyboard controller and unleashes some soulful organ improv. Check out this wonderful track here:
Third cut “Slasher” gets right to the warm organ tones, balancing that against slap-trappy percussion. After a minute another more synthetic keyboard texture emerges, providing counter-melodies to the organ running along simultaneously. Ascending otherworldly ambience serves up an appropriate coda.
While “Honeymoon Phase” continues that rough brush-stroke percussion, reverberated electric piano is introduced as a dueling keyboard element against the traditional B3 organ. Additional synthetic textures find their way into the mix as well, however it is the romantic chord selection and emotive playing that really shines through here.
Title track “Like The Sun” hits the ground running in full motion with a busy, angular sequence and syncopated percussive strokes marking out an interesting (and peculiar) pattern. Sampled voices materialize like Middle-Eastern prayer chants, and deep bass notes expand the sonic field into lower regions. Organs, synths, blips and bleeps all make appearances, adding an element of sci-fi to it all. There's even a bit of distorted-voice spoken word narration included in the final minute of this over six minute extravaganza.
Other cuts like “Mela's Cha Cha” position closer to more recognizable jazz-funk-soul hybrids, leaning more on buzzy brass synths for melody phrasing. However, there's always room for a few bars of rich, organ stylings and complimentary “outer space” ambiance.
“Three Lights” blends emotive Hammond B3 organ jamming over top of a hypnotic calypso beat. “Break Tune” takes the beat into a more static direction, with a pattern and sound like a Nine Inch Nails intro. While additional icy synths and distressed vocal samples may also throw off a Reznor-like feel, alternating passages with soulful organ and jazz guitar accompaniment take the edge off any potential existential dread.
Sticking with the slowcore premise and progression, “Marie Bonheur” serves up it's glacial pace through double guitar layers of strummed chords and bright guitar figures over top. Carefully paired percussion and bass guitar enters the mix, creating the base for multiple layers of emotional guitar melodies. The final minute adds a gorgeous violin and cello string arrangement lifting it all into the realm of classical.