Through complex percussion and a steady synth drone, The Black Drumset’s new album “Charged” is a heavy atmospheric crush. Straight from the art gallery business in Austin, TX, Brian Willey, the creative force, flips the script in the vocals through a serene monk like hum often layered to fill a cathedral– “Ohhh, they’re ready to destroy it all” is sung with in meditation. Songs swell, building to crescendos with a steady hand setting the pace and as often as they are dark and cool, they are warm and soothing as on the opener “There’s a Shark in the Boat”.
The band sounds polished but this is only the second album, since 2009. Willey released the debut to critical praise 10 years ago but life halted the project. He found time to work on a new album a couple years ago. The hiatus seems to have only helped, as this album is so confident and assured of its purpose. The ten-minute dreamy finale “For All That is Yet to Be” attests to that singularity of conceit by putting a suave flourish on a savvy album. For a taster, this is the 4 minute single.
There’s a drama to the sound with songs averaging around 5-minutes. Like a soundtrack following a film’s action, each song travels linearly to a satisfying end with no better example than the final line “The last beat of the last Elk heart” quietly sung at very end on the otherwise throbbing dance track of the same name…
These instrumentals are highlights of the seven-track album. On “For All That is Yet to be Lost” and “Reciprocal, Perpetual” you can hear the careful design and loving orchestration.
Don’t expect the repetitive cycles of easy access pop. The Black Drumset aren’t trying to write top 40 bangers. This is moody polyrhythmic, synth-laden, indie rock. But as the music might push you into the murky depths, the vocals lift you back out and show you the dichotomy of darkness against thick clouds thread by lances of sunlight. On “Animals vs Drones,” Willey sings “the sun still warms us and feeds us / but despite all this beauty all around…” and no verbal explanation is given but the songs tone switches to a pared down synth with a constant note swaying into a heavy drum outro– the effect is quite arresting.
This is a challenging listen. I haven’t seen them live but given enough amplitude, a light effect or two, and an audience similarly throbbing along to the deep cuts I imagine I’d be sold. Like so much good music, this is best suited for a driving album or a live show. Get absorbed into it by going flying down the freeway or creeping closer to the stage debating whether to leave the earplugs in or not.
The album is out March 8th!
Finally, check out his interview with Austin Town Hall as he gears up for SXSW.