Record Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre

The Brian Jonestown Massacre
San Francisco, CA

(A Recordings Ltd)

“Snake charmer rhythms and German flavoring”

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Aufheben is a German word defined in contradictions, simultaneously meaning “to abolish,” “to preserve” as well as “to transcend.” Singer-songwriter-guitarist Anton Newcombe takes that meaning and literally applies it to the recording and deconstruction of Aufheben – laying his vocals on the bottom of certain tracks and arranging the music loosely atop. Additionally, he centered the album’s recording in East Berlin, utilizing the Eastern hemisphere’s rhythms, instruments, arrangement styles and adding authentic flavor by bringing in German musicians such as flautist Friederike Bienert to add to the current BJM members bassist Will Carruthers, guitarist Matt Hollywood and drummer Constantine Karlis. The meaning of Aufheben may continue even further as the album appears to span a 24-hour period beginning late at night.

“Panic In Babylon” kicks off the album with an ohm and a hum on a snake charmer’s horn, leading into a slithering tune of a song that sets acoustic guitars against a backdrop of drums and tambourines while chimpanzee and bird sounds blend in amongst it all until a rooster crows. Lead video and single “Viholliseni Maalla,” the Finnish translation of Newcombe’s “In The Land of My Enemy” is brought softness and passion by Eliza Karmasalo as reverberated guitar lines bounce above a looping, trancy keyboard and guitar sample track and solid drums. On several tracks, guitars are played in the rhythmic patterns of sitars and dulcimers. Bienert’s fabulous flute playing appears on the danceable, swinging tune “Illuminomi,” sung by Thibault Pesenti, the memorable instrumental “Face Down on the Moon,” and “Walking Up To Hand Grenades,” adding texture and lightness to melodies that would otherwise be left to keyboards. Lyrics follow ’60s themes of wonder, love, friendship and revolution, completing the authentic feel of the retro, psychedelic sound of Aufheben. If not for the reference within the last title, “Blue Order New Monday,” the listener could forget this is a new release.

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