Dusted Reviews

Guillermo E. Brown - Black Dreams 1.0

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Guillermo E. Brown

Album: Black Dreams 1.0

Label: Melanine Harmonique

Review date: Sep. 21, 2004

For those familiar with Guillermo E. Brown only as the drummer for the David S. Ware Quartet, Black Dreams 1.0 will surprise. In the quartet, Brown is a part of the whole. On this album his multiple influences and ideas shine through: Jungle, De La Soul, his grandfather’s jazz drumming, his mother’s ethnomusicology career, Alvin Lucier, musical theater, dance, the global flow of economy and culture. For Brown, eclecticism is not a choice but a built-in feature. ”I am a human sampler,” he declares, ”I traverse traditional cultural and social boundaries.”

On his debut solo record, the Blue Series’ Soul at the Hands of the Machine, Brown piled on the cross-cultural references, as he and his collaborators filled the music to the point of overflow. Black Dreams 1.0, released on Brown’s Melanine Harmonique Recordings, features only Brown, all of the sounds made by his voice, instruments, electronics and samples. Coupled with Brown’s rhetoric, the album is less music and more conceptual sonic art.

He produced the record with a fellowship from Harvestworks, an institute promoting digital media artwork. Using the music software Max/MSP, he gives physical reality to his view of culture as a web of cross-breeding ideas. While globalized dialogue is not an original concept, Brown’s globe is not a utopia in sound, but a restless and uncertain one, charged with digitized energy The studio is a perfect setting for Brown, a space where his diverse influences can speak through him. With 23 tracks clocking in at over 50 minutes, the album hurries through a dizzying procession of (maybe one too many) musical sketches, echoing at times the neurotic jump-cuts of De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising.

The second half of the album contains a kind of tone-surfing suite. Over seven pieces, each rarely longer than 90 seconds, Brown compresses a century of electronic timbres: tinny monophonic cell-phone bleeping, manic industrial crunching, itchy digital throbbing, static sludgy dub, mechanical whirring. The menagerie culminates in ”Mouth Que,” in which Brown sucks, breathes and pops a web of processed vocalizations – the human spirit mated with electronics.

Vocal experiments appear elsewhere. Brown sings on ”Octaroon” over a wash of glitchy static, electro beats and warbling bass - Lee Perry and Eric B. smothering a soul singer with their mixing consoles. On ”Bible” what starts as dark Miles-funk devolves into a stereo-panned maze of shouted vowels.

Much high-concept music - like a lot of musique concrète - is interesting for one or two listenings, the experience more intellectual than visceral. But Brown never forgets he is a drummer, and injects the tracks with enough beats to latch onto. He lays down a spare, snare-kick-kick-snare groove on ”Columbia/Oh,” adds a gauzy vocalized ”Oh” for accents, buries in the mix a needling string riff (a zither, perhaps?) and grounds the whole mess with a massive fluttering bass tone, generating a banging hip hop drone.

By Matthew Wuethrich

Other Reviews of Guillermo E. Brown

Soul at the Hands of the Machine

Shuffle Mode

Read More

View all articles by Matthew Wuethrich

Find out more about Melanine Harmonique

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.