Brown Calculus, Live at the Map Room (Self-Released)
[COSMIC SOUL] "I feel like we're in a living room, like y'all just came over to our house or something," says singer Vaughn Kimmons a few minutes into the debut EP from her alt-R&B project, Brown Calculus. Well, technically it's a recording studio, but yeah, that's pretty much the vibe. Recorded, indeed, live at the Map Room in Southeast Portland, the album comes off less like a proper introduction than an in-the-moment lark—as if the friends heard applauding, laughing and chatting in the background were hanging out one night and convinced them to just press "record" and see what happens. But then, that feeling of improvisatory intimacy appears to be what the band is aiming for. "Self-Care," the lone studio track available on the group's Bandcamp, is a free-floating cloud of interstellar soul, and the six other songs here take on a similar amorphous shape. Producer Andre Burgos lays out a star-bed of jazzy keyboards and analog space sounds for Kimmons' fluttering alto, which she uses to lament digital age romance, affirm her blackness and gush over the cherry blossoms that sprout along the waterfront in spring. Much of the EP's charm is in its off-the-cuff moments, like when Kimmons reveals she lifted a lyric from a jingle for hair relaxer, or her jokes about delivering an encore of only the most obscure Hall and Oates songs. It might be more of a tease than a true coming-out, but if this is Brown Calculus mostly messing around, the official record should be exceptional.
SEE IT: Brown Calculus plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Indira Valey and Forest Veil, on Saturday, Dec. 23. 9 pm. $5. 21+. Get tickets here.