- BOSCH are (from l to r) Christopher Brown, Charles Greenleaf, and Kevin Sims. I dig `em daddy-o!
I find it hard to find new music I LIKE. Yeah, yeah, there are satellite channels, pay-radio, web-radio, TV “music” channels, friends, etc. But just because there are multiple sources of input does not necessarily yield categorical output.
I like BOSCH.
I know, I had to break the fourth wall, and recall the obvious parallel in the headline. But here’s the beautiful part. At times, and it is this reviewer’s opinion, they even sound like the manufacturing of engineered metal automobile parts. On purpose (I hope!).
BOSCH is about dissonance, BOSCH is about cacophony, BOSCH is about experimentation.
I love dissonance, cacophony, and experimentation.
I will let the Glass Onyon press release do much of the explaining for me. All I need to say is this is one “power-trio” that has no worries about how to fill the void when the guitar goes to solo.
Token Boy Records
PO Box 7412
Algonquin IL 60102
Phone: 815 477 8404
Fax: 815 477 8969
Kevin Sims – began playing bass guitar in 1989. Fascinated by guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Greg Ginn (Black Flag). Kevin developed an effect-laden, unconventional approach to bass guitar. Over the years he has played in dozens of bands ranging from noisy, loose punk rock (Thoughtcrime, Floorwalker) to avant garde pop (Blackberry Ripper, Flash To Bang Time, and Ranch). Kevin also plays with Charles Greenleaf in Flash To Bang Time and punk-polka combo, The Knockouts. Currently involved in two electronica projects as well, Kevin is the principle member of The Launch Codes, and part of the guitar, bass, groovebox duo Hey Y’all.
Charles Greenleaf: I am the trumpet, guitar, black and white key player with many knobs and chords within the soundscapes of this – our debut release, BOSCH. My inspiration comes from the performers on this album, Mr. Kevin Sims and Mr. Christopher Brown.
Christopher Brown commencements:
1963: Formal snare drum study with Doyle Heffron
1965: Drumset study under jazz musician and drumset pioneer Dick Dickson
1967: Rock Band performances
1971: Rock opera performances
1975: Co-formed multi-media group Trusty Wourins Performance Ensemble
1977: Played percussion with the University of Chicago’s Symphony Orchestra
1978: Co-formed the rock band The Benders
1979: Co-formed the multi-media group Random Touch
Yow, so now you mix these guys in a studio and there is bound to be some interesting results. They are interesting. But they are NOT for the faint of heart. You have to love the avant garde to appreciate this stuff. Maybe they might compare to Zappa without the humor and more free-form performances.
When I heard this disc I thought to myself, how am I going to review this? I get it, I mean I totally get it. I mean when I heard this album I heard shades of bands like King Crimson, The Residents, Devo, I mean I had no idea where I was going to end up next!
Then it hit me, how the hell am I going to review these tracks? As is my modus operandi, I analyze each disc or performance track by track, song by song. Will I be able to do this with this disc? The pieces are not your average intro-build-verse-bridge-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-chorus-solo-chorus-breakdown-chorus-modulated key chorus-fade-arrangements. I am not sure just how this will play out in a review form, but I am not one to hedge at trying to step-up the blog…
The disc itself starts off with “Dreaming Of Daybreak” and opens with what sounds like car part manufacturing, pick-scrape-type noises eventually join the percussive cacophony until a jazz drumset joins the bass loop. A helicopter noise introduces the full ensemble.
Remember, there are three people producing this.
On my 7.1 system, the bass frequencies are taxing my drywall. I am not playing this disc any louder than I would any other (I have a universal setting for reviewing discs, a setting for just listening, and a setting for when I mix my own stuff down in 5.1). But the bass end is boosted so much that the things around the subwoofer are moving!
Synth brass blasts, helicopter sounds and effected bass bring things down.
To the untrained ear, this will sound like pure dreck. The more open-minded will find little treasures throughout the “self-indulgence”.
We build up again and add some synth bleats. The dynamic builds and drops, and this inter-play continues to the end.
The second track is the one that put me in the mind of Devo. An arpeggiated synth line at the beginning of “Aspire All Around You”, a track that even managed to remind me of my old band, The Goodz vigorously embraces us. When Greenleaf starts changing the voice while engaging the arpeggiated keyboard is an old trick of my band, this was an especially easy trick on an analog or analog-modeled synthesizer.
The drums pile in and the next thing you know, the well-mixed sub-sonic bass is added. Unfortunately, now I’m gonna have to re-drywall my living room. Thanks, guys…
As it begins to sound like a swarm of bees (“sounds like the noise, of a far-off swarm of bees, on a summer day”… Laurie Anderson) the focus changes to an ascent. In the background of the breakdown, Greenleaf’s guitar is howling in rage, as bass chords claim the signal! Lounge chords and hisses fade out, with that raging guitar still going…
BOSCH is a band that seems to fight for the same frequencies that contain them.
Next offered is “A Long Way From Home” and it is a bit more conventional (still some scraping sounds like in the first song) but it conforms to an arrangement (I swear!).
Bashing cymbals and echoey guitars build to a cacophonous breakdown that (as is habit on this disc) heals itself.
If you are getting confused, I have to remind you, this is not “La-Dee-Dah” music. This is art. If art wants to put different time signatures in dissonance, THAT’S ART.
Pitched guitar delays and spacey synths bring us back to attention from our nasty daydream.
A very wet synth makes diarrhea noises until the space synth ushers in the clean guitar, which breaks into dissonant chords as the dynamic literally undulates.
The bass? At this point my house needs structural repair, the thunderous, train-like bass has caused one of my floor joists to twist! It isn’t over yet…
At this point we have a Caesar salad of sounds. The diarrheics now taken over by the guitar. The drumming is some of the best faux-Bruford I have heard. Until a buzzsaw synth and some angry notes end the piece.
Bells and square-wave (as well as other synths) start “Savor The Fall”. As I mentioned before, I am listening to this on a 7.1 system and the panning is phenomenal. If you can position yourself dead center, it’s a trip!
More synths build up until Brown’s robotic voice comes in accompanied by backward bass. Intellectual unintelligible meanderings come from Brown’s mic.
I have encountered a new phenomenon: The bass is so heavy, and my sub-woofer is so big and close to my CD player, it is causing it to skip!
Thanks BOSCH, now I have to re-engineer my listening space. Where did I put that decibel meter…?
Hearing some of the distorted voices brings back memories of early Residents, before their music went soft. Sims is laying the bass loops on thick until the drums are brought in, repleat with a jingle stick. But it keeps on building! All the while, thump thump thump from the bass.
If I had to make one suggestion to BOSCH, it would be to seek an outside opinion as to when to pack it in when it comes to song length. Some of the tunes (like this one) are a bit too long.
Flanged percussion and backward bass deceptively give intro to “Been Out For Three Days”, an on and off piece. Clavinet / Tack Piano hops back and forth, and seems to hold together the cacophony. A lone vocal sample and bird chirps signal for an unhurried end.
Just when this song seemed to want to break into a fast tempo, that idea is universally shot down by each of the members. Despite this, it does maintain an “interstellar appeal”. A lone vocal sample ushers in the final 20 seconds that actually sounds like a segment is repeating.
Oddly, for a song titled “Moving Machines”’, we hear nature sounds in the beginning. Nature and synths, with some noisy percussion in-between the technologies that comprise this track.
Some of that technology includes more reverse-looped thumping bass. It cracked a small window in my front door.
Not as long as the others, this one does become more machine-like as it winds down. Yet it ends with more nature. Dust to dust, I guess.
The most ‘normal’ sounding song is “Walkabout’ with its’ tremolo bass and almost drum beat, the avant garde comes from a howling trumpet and noodling guitar.
Are you waiting for me to say this one is the hit single? No. No singles off this. BOSCH is a ride you either take or don’t. The drums explode as the two note blasts give way to the funky drums and more tremolo bass.
Next, disoriented keys and cymbal tree blasts yield to more arpeggiations on the organ-synth. Drum swells represent “A Tornado Round”, Brown can press roll… NEXT!
The calliope keyboard picks up a drone here, some cacophony there, and then all of the sudden, notes from an acoustic guitar echo about in the mix. Single notes, like it was being tuned…
Then, after our investment, it just swells off into the distance.
“Everything Begins” greets us with a lone voice who says “You are naked…”
How did he know?
After more of this brief diatribe, pulsing bass and shaker noises accompany drifting synths.
NOTE TO CHARLES GREENLEAF: Lay off the arpeggiator button and a pick a voice and stay with it!
A-hem! Excuse me, sorry.
The diatribe turns out not to be brief. This has to be classified as a tone-poem. Performance art, but this is one they needed to trim some fat from. I really can’t see any of the members saying “Oh, this spot is really crying out for a pick-scrape sound here…”.
After a brief clean-echoed guitar, a long tenuous note is expelled and a nasty phenomenon is occurring. This track, or at least segments of it, are mastered too loudly and it is breaking up my system. I have a high wattage system, so this must have left the mastering lab scorching. Voice and delay / sequenced organ take us out with flanged, muted guitar notes bedeviling the last few bars.
Another ‘closest thing we have to dance music’ track is “Bishops”. Closest to 4/4, it is in reality only a one-note modulation. Remarkable how Brown can correct himself, even when he goes into a fill at one point and comes in a beat behind. He made it sound good! In my opinion, the most enjoyable track on the disc! But way too short.
This next song starts with flanged beats, a suspension in the rhythm chords, some cacophony, a little dissonance, a little seltzer in your pants…
The flanged beats become merely suggestion as the full instrumentation has little to no connection to the groovebox. Trumpets somewhat reminiscent of Einsturzende Neubauten runs through my head. Fuzzy, flanged bass plays the evil, minor, diminished devil sound.
They call this one “Awakened By Touch”?
It sounds like a battle between heaven and hell. But before the battle ends, the band, much like the proverbial troops, regroup and march violently to the end in the form of a thunderous exhausted cacophony. Since the bass note lasts the longest, we’ll credit the battle win to hell.
Crinkling paper, sounding like a fire, sounding like the opener to David Bowie’s Scary Monsters album crinkly, gives way to noises and sounds like angry wild cats bring about a sedate keyboard and some chirp-like sounds. Once those crinkly noises fade off, the drums join in. Sims maintains the melody in the form of looped bass chords accompanied by delayed drums. Never an easy task, maintaining tempo between a digital looper and a human drummer, hats off to them for pulling this off!
I mentioned a calliope before? How fitting that this track is called “No Carnival Complete”. It sounds like a fairground. But once again, Greenleaf is leaning on that voice select button on his synth while using the sequencer or arpeggiator function. It got old two songs ago, dude! The drums kick in a little before two minutes in (so nice of you to join). There is groovebox again, for what good it does.
As we press on we fall into more of a pattern, at least Brown and Sims do, who the hell knows what Greenleaf is on. It ain’t the beat. But it is AWESOME!
Sims brings some backward bass (which did not get old). But we soon breakdown. Did I say soon? This tune is 8:30 long. But the bass chords that come in are worth the wait. A dry flange sound pulls us out of the jungle style drum break, but I am afraid of where this is going…
The keys fall back to a rising chordal structure, more through pitch bend or sequencer than arrangement. That is how we end the album known as BOSCH.
If I have to put a post mortem on this, and in some cases, I have to apply a rating (so far, a one to five star scale), I am rating this four out of five stars BUT WITH A STERN WARNING: it was hard to review this disc (as I suspected) because these are flow pieces. You don’t review Brian Eno’s ambient work and say “at 14:33, there was a ‘ping’. It repeated at 14:51…” In order to write down what I find, I have to pause the disc. This is not conducive to enjoying the flow.
My best thing to ever happen to me (for those of you who are new to this blog, this is how I refer to my wife of 13 years, photographer for this blog, best friend, etc.) offered three opinions; first – “this is good music for rough sex”, second – “this is not good driving music”, third – “Laurie Anderson was right, there is such a thing as difficult listening.”
Furthermore, she is an audio engineer (I am a multi-instrumentalist, we go together like Republicans and Financial Reform) and she made several observations about instrument levels, mastering and the subsequent mistakes made on this disc. This and Greenleaf’s excessive use of multi-voiced arpeggiations deducted that fifth star.
You’ve been warned, and if you are like me, and enjoy sonically and musically challenging compositions, you’ll run out to your local indie record store and order this.
I and my affiliate outlets are not responsible for any property damage listening to BOSCH may cause.