Music is art and, as such, there are endless interpretations and styles to be had. Throughout history, there have been many, many musicians who have used a basic and culturally approved composition structure to put together a product which is readily digestible by the masses and the "art" of the music becomes lost in a sea of glory-hounds and pre-cast corporate templates. Every once in a while we are treated to an artist who breaks the music down to it's most basic parts and attempts to create a product that pushes the boundaries of what we have come to expect from our musicians. Enter Mark Deutrom.
Using a visual art analogy, some paintings are quick sketches, brilliant in their simplicity and created very quickly. Others are incredibly labor intensive and feature layers and layers of paint and texture encouraging the viewer to get up close and marvel at the depth and detail. And then there are artists like Kazimir Malevich who broke his art down to its' essential elements and made paintings like "Black Square" (which was a black square on white canvas). This was confusing to some and called brilliant by others. Using this same analogy, "Brief Sensuality and Western Violence", the newest release from Mark Deutrom (formerly of "The Melvins"), is Malevich among a pile of Thomas Kincade paintings.
"Brief Sensuality and Western Violence" is an "anti rock" album full of experimentation and boundary-pushing sonic exploration. It's full of ambient sounds and tremolo guitars, avant-garde style compositions with percussion and sparse guitar playing. There are no "verse-chorus-verse" rock and roll ditties, and no heavy riffing or hammer-ons here. This is music as high-art.
The first, and longest, track (20 minutes) is "Dick Cheney" which begins with a simulated heartbeat, eventually adding a pipe organ, then back to the "thump-thump, thump-thump", continuing musically through the Dark Ages, military imperialism and, seemingly, the demise of civilization. The first sign of a vocal isn't until roughly 8 minutes in. The song is described by Mark as a representation "...reflecting the origins, history, and destiny of mankind" . Pretty deep stuff.
The lyrics are poetry but are not first and foremost on the album. They are important but only insofar as carrying the listener to the next stop. I had the good fortune of being given a track-by-track breakdown written by Mark Deutrom. The descriptions go a long way toward explaining the feelings and motivations behind each song. Each piece is unique and enjoyable in it's own right but having the descriptions is the difference between watching the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" first or watching it after reading the book. It helps answer the question, "What the hell is going on here?".
The subjects of the tracks range from the forming of matter in the universe to the opening of the Seventh Seal. From skies filled with unmanned drones to the transitional nature of existence to Jesus. For me, the highlights were "Temple Smasher" and "A Shaky Rabbit".
"Brief Sensuality and Western Violence" explores music and the space between the notes, setting a specific mood and travelling through the vast expanse of storytelling through music. There are moments that feel like the soundtrack to Kerouak's "On the Road". I visualized a beat poet stepping up on stage in a smoke filled room wearing a black turtleneck, matching beret and sunglasses at night, snapping his fingers and reciting some "like wow, man" poetry.
Deutrom ventures briefly into elements of psychedelia, jazz, rock and blues but never lingers on one particular genre for too long. Occasionally, he utilizes complex time signatures to great advantage intentionally keeping you off-balance and somewhat unsettled.
Don't you dare listen to "Brief Sensuality and Western Violence" on your ipod with those crappy headphones you bought at Walmart. This record MUST be enjoyed on the best system you have available in order to get the most out of the subtleties within. It's also not the kind of album you would pop into the stereo of your convertible Camaro and go cruising down the road. This album should be listened to intentionally and with purpose. It's a late at night, explore your mind and contemplate what could be experience. If you're the type who likes a little art with his or her music then this one's for you.