Bruce Lamont, Dave Witte and Aaron Dallison – three men who are no strangers to eccentric and forward-thinking music – have come together to deliver one of 2016’s most bizarre and gleefully zany records. Considering their involvement in bands like Yakuza, Burnt by the Sun and Keelhaul respectively, it is no surprise Brain Tentacles sounds as odd as it does. Lamont’s eclectic saxophone chops, Witte’s virtuosic drumming and Dallison’s thunderous bass presence work together to create an album that sounds like if John Zorn’s Naked City collaborated with Mike Patton’s Fantomas to work on a demented, animated cartoon program. Its compositions are both structured and improvised, and full of seizure-inducing wackiness and delightful discordance. It is a polarizing record that will probably alienate many, but draw the weird kids like the Pied Piper drew rats.
The roughly 50-minute effort dishes out 11 discombobulating tracks, about half of which are entirely instrumental. Dallison provides the bulk of the vocal work on the record, though guest vocalists also make an appearance. The most notable guest is Oxbow‘s Eugene S. Robinson, who appears on the track “Gassed”. The album begins with the instrumental duo of “Kingda Ka” and “Fruitcake”. The two-minute fever dream of “Kingda Ka” is spearheaded by Lamont’s insanely twisted use of his saxophone. He conjures spiraling, atonal melodies and various wails, shrieks and feral ululations. Witte’s frantic rhythmic shifts and Dallison’s scraping, metallic bass lines only add to this song’s dizzying display of weirdness. “Fruitcake” is no less frenetic and cartoonish. The track cycles back-and-forth between these fluttering, drug-induced melodies and lurching, sludgy marches. Lamont and Dallison exchange musical punches during the song’s brief bridge, while Witte deals out subtly complex percussion.
Brain Tentacles dial back their erratic nature on the nine-minute “Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse”in favor of a sprawling, doom-like pace. The sax simultaneously stomps, wails and unleashes menacing melodies while the rhythm section compliments the woodwind’s steady death march. The track gradually shifts from avant-garde doomjazz to atmospheric splendor as it progresses, with vocals also shifting from harsh screams to ethereal cleans respectively. From here on the tracks get even more ludicrous. “Gassed” features a funky, bouncing presence that is marred, in a positive way, by Oxbow‘s Eugene S. Robinson’s infamous psychotic wailing and rambling. The band parody grind on “The Spoiler” as the sax and bass collide head-on with myriads of angular riffs, while the drumming unleashes a brutal punishment of its own.
“Fata Morgana” is an interesting addition to this overwhelming chaotic record. The track weaves together Gothic-tinged bass lines with droning vocals and smooth sax leads, coming across as a peculiar blend between Type O Negative and Bohren & der Club of Gore. “Palantine” closes out the record with a slow-burning crawl that initially begins with earthy bass lines and noir-inspired saxophone, before becoming something more abrasive and ear-splitting. Attached to the end of the track is a lengthy, humorous prank call skit. If it wasn’t clear that this record isn’t a particularly serious one, now it should be.
Brain Tentacles‘ self-titled debut is and oddball opus that will bring all of the weirdos together. It is unpredictable, complex, stylistically unique and “fun” in the most bizarre sense of the word. Although it doesn’t take itself too seriously, compositionally it is no joke. Call it avant-garde jazz. Call it annoying noise. Whatever listeners decide to label it, it is clear this trio is onto something special.
Release Date: September 30, 2016
Label: Relapse Records
Favorite Tracks: “Fruitcake”, “Cosmic Warriors Girth Curse”, “Hand of God”, “Gassed” and “Fata Morgana”
For Fans Of: Yakuza, Bloodiest, Naked City, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle and Kayo Dot