I guess there are other stories like this one. It’s a big country after all, and a bigger world. But this story is running through my head this morning:
Three self-taught musicians join together back in 2008 (probably earlier) to form a band and make music. At the time, two of them live in Quincy, Mass (guitarist Jay O’Malley and drummer Ryan Lavery), and the third in Brooklyn (guitarist Mike Kvidera). They self-release an album in 2009 called Thirty-Nothing, which was written in a room by that name, pictured on the right — basically a utility hallway in the basement of an old shipping mill in New Bedford, Mass. A real underground, DIY operation.
I find out about the album the next year; I don’t even remember how. The music is heavy, it’s pummeling, it’s hypnotic, it’s discordant, it’s melodic, it’s unpredictable, it’s organized mayhem. It’s all of those things, plus some. I write about it here. I’m so taken with it that I track down guitarist Mike Kvidera and interview him, which runs along with that review.
Time passes. I lose track of this band until April 2011, when a Bandcamp page appears with The Brown Book’s name on it. The band has become even more geographically dispersed. O’Malley has moved to San Diego, and the band has enlisted a permanent bassist, Sam Matson, who’s conveniently located in Cookeville, Tennessee. They manage to self-release a new EP called Pyramid Scheme. It’s even heavier than the album, but like Thirty-Nothing, it’s deceptively chaotic and it captures my imagination. I write about it here.
More time passes, and then a few days ago a new song appears in my e-mail in-box.
Ryan Lavery’s e-mail says the song was recorded in a practice space just outside San Diego recently. The collection of photo IDs on a table that came with the song seems offered as a kind of proof (besides the song) that the foursome managed to be in the same place at the same time, at least long enough to record this song. So no, this wasn’t the product of internet file-sharing and integration. It doesn’t sound like it either.
From Ryan’s e-mail, I learn that the band plans to convene again in Nashville this June to record a third release, to be titled III. It seems this new song will be on the album, but perhaps recorded in a studio the next time.
I’m sure a studio recording would sound better, but the sound of this version puts me in mind of Jesper Zuretti’s NCS guest post at the end of last year, the point of which I took to be that we shouldn’t confuse the quality of a recording with the quality of a song. All the software and recording gear in the world can’t polish a turd, and although a good song may have difficulty transcending a lo-fi recording set-up, given the expectations of our modern ears, maybe we need to train ourselves to listen better. And sometimes, a really rough sound can actually suit a song, which is the way I’m feeling about “Queer Street”.
It’s almost 11 minutes long, but holds interest from start to finish. Like all the rest of this band’s music, there are no vocals. I happen to think trying to add vocals would be a mistake anyway. At the beginning: The sludgy guitars and crushing bass hammer like a heavy demolition sledge, while the drums capture the sound of something falling apart. You can get into a groove for a while, and then the rhythm shifts, and shifts again — downshifting, into a discordant abyss.
Later: a grimy lead guitar ramps up into a flurry of sickness while the drums go nuts and the bass continues doing its damnedest to wreck your head with repeated hammer blows. Later still: the buzzing of repeating tremolo riffs, the rhythmic crashing of drums and smashing of cymbals, the ominous vortex of the bass rising and dropping hard.
At the end: feedback.
If I were to attempt to slap genre labels on the song, I guess I’d call it sludge with elements of doom, grind, and noise, but it also makes me think of black metal, even though most of the “standard” BM motifs are missing. Maybe it’s partly because of the roughness of the recording, but I think mainly it’s a matter of vibe, caused by the near-catastrophic darkness of the sonic aura. Check it out and let us know what you think:
The Brown Book: “Queer Street”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Queer-Street.mp3|titles=The Brown Book – Queer Street]
Ryan’s e-mail said we should feel free to pass the song along, so I’m doing that, too. You can right-click on this link and download it for yourself.
While we wait for the band’s next release, here are links for more info about The Brown Book and how to get their music:
(there’s an “enter” link on the splash page at this site, though you may have to look closely for it)