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Headbrain

Headbrain

Self-titled debut album hits November 1

“Automatic compositions” echo Tangerine Dream, Yo La Tengo, PiL, southeast Asian pop music, Goblin, Rachmaninoff.

Faced with unexpected stretches of downtime during the recording their fourth album, The Saga of the Uncoordinated Cowboy, members of the veteran New Jersey art-rock band Una Pong began indulging their shared interest in improvisation, filling hours of disc space with lengthy, completely unplanned yet single-minded explorations, featuring gauzy keyboard textures, throbbing drumbeats, and maximal delay loops. When ELIZABETH WALSH (bass/keyboards), ADAM BUDOFSKY (drums, effects), and CARL BAGGALEY (keyboards/synths) began listening back to their initial forays, none was quite prepared for how oddly visceral their stripped-down celestial grooves would sound.

Over the next few months it became clear that the intricate compositions of the mother band amight take significantly longer to see the light of day than the band had anticipated. Seeing opportunity in change, Walsh, Budofsky, and Baggaley decided to follow this new improv-based direction. Christening themselves Headbrain, the trio continued to record their sporadic jam sessions, which Budofsky began to manipulate at his home studio.

Though all the tracks began as improvisations, the amount of editing varies greatly. On some cuts, for instance, what you’re hearing could be seven or eight unadulterated minutes of Headbrain playing live in a room. On others, it could be two or three segments of the same performance folded over one another. Aside from a few overdubs, though, most of what is coming through the speakers is what went down in the room. “Some beautiful things can happen when your deepest subconscious slowly bubbles to a sonic surface,” says Baggaley. “We could never have planned these recordings to sound at all like they do,” Budofsky adds. “So the element of spontaneous composition is still the most important building block of our songs.”

The trio has collected six of these genetically altered automatic compositions on their self-titled debut album, out November 1. Each track on Headbrain, though distinct, clearly reflects the group’s adventurous yet accessible sound-view. Opener “Nathan Guldthwaite’s Golden Throne” begins the album with the strange clarion call of a skittering drum fill, then travels through hypnotic keyboard passages and galloping space grooves before coming to rest at the doorstep of “The Day the Earth Turned to Stone,” a skuzzy yet dignified hard groover that simultaneously recalls the Butthole Surfers and Rick Wakeman. “Wonders of Shad” is as subtle and contemplative as the fish it describes. And “Coefficient River,” a mind-bending, 19-minute extravaganza for the post-apocalyptic crowd, evokes Serengeti beasts and sci-fi yodelers whose space-moors have broken. All in all, it’s a demanding listen—not exactly progressive rock, not exactly ambient, and not exactly post-rock—but one that both challenges and rewards the listener.

Headbrain

All three members of Headbrain are prolific musicians who are involved in multiple projects. CARL BAGGALEY is a member of renowned indie rock group Elk City and releases his own adventurous, mostly instrumental music under the name Phloemboy. ELIZABETH WALSH is a classically trained composer who has written for the Harry Partch Instrumentarium; she’s also sung and played bass with a number of well-regarded New York and New Jersey rock bands. ADAM BUDOFSKY, a music journalist by trade, has performed and recorded with influential Celtic-rock band the Barleycorns, jangle-pop group C is for Coyote and neo-carnie banjoist Curtis Eller’s American Circus (both with Walsh), and his own lo-fi transistor-trash project A Good Corporation.

Headbrain often performs at multimedia installations, such as their Hoboken Studio Tour series, which features film, art, and nonstop multi-hour sets of live improvised music, which the band admits can be grueling. “Creating improvised music is very difficult,” Walsh explains. “You’re communicating with your fellow musicians in a way that transcends language. Improvisation requires deep listening, concentration, and discipline.” “We enjoy the challenge, though,” adds Budofsky. “Actually, we have no choice; this is what the music wants to sound like when the three of us get together. As long as we focus on the musicality within the unknown, we’re usually okay.”

Films by the band can be seen at www.headbrain.net. Their self-titled debut album will be available November 1 through CDBaby.com, Amazon, iTunes, and other retail outlets. For more information, visit headbrain.net or email headbrain2000@gmail.com.

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