Dolls & Guns (Blackout Music; 2011)
Kevin Brow has created two fantastic albums in the last three years with his band Koptor. On his third outing (under his own name), Brow explores improvisations far reaching possibilities with illuminating success.
Dolls & Guns (Blackout Music) is enlightening mixture of classical and jazz chamber pieces between Brow and a 13 well chosen musicians (either instrumentalists and vocalists). You might expect there to varying degrees of success on each piece but I have to tell you, you couldn't be more wrong in that thinking.
"Sometimes My Thoughts Sounds Like This" rolls and pounds out as a dueling tribal match between Brow and fellow drummer, Dan Weiss. The piece while short is really more an introduction to the diversity of the Dolls & Guns.
"Light Years" expands this rising crest of sound with Brow in the opening movements and then passing gently on to Jacob Anderskov's exquisitely soft, almost motionless piano. The space the artists leave between is earthy and haunting. Brow returns in the end with a fierce cause and effect statement as both musicians head to a fade out.
"Brain Washing" is probably more in line with some may know from Brow's previous associations. The counterpoint battle between the great Tim Berne and Kevin Brow here is beautiful and their improvising somehow welds itself into harmonic structure.
One of my favourite discoveries on the vocal side this year was that of Sissel Vera Pettersen (from Equilibrium). Her work her with Brow on two tracks "An Ancient Sport" "Elegant Strut" and are both delightful, pleasing and calm. Brow allows the Pettersen's voice and vocal manipulations to be the main focus of the piece while he adds a commanding beat in background or gentle taps and brushes around the outside of lyrics.
Longtime collaborator, Mikkel Ploug also participates with "Tnf Alpha vs Remicade". Both musicians and a bit of mysticism here that straddles both improvisation and indie-rock. An instrumental that Tortoise would be proud of.
Brow closes out the albums on an interesting note with "Green Tea." A solo piece. But not the soloist you'd expect. Here Brow has chosen Jacob Sacks (piano) to carry this extraordinary session out on a subtle and touching note. It's beautiful and it also show the breath and support Brow has given to his partners on this record. It is not just a Kevin Brow solo project--its ever one's project.
Dolls & Guns is a magnificent work that is not only a study of a musician and composer that is growing in stature. It is a document of leadership and creativity among individuals. Wonderful and moving stuff.