November 3rd, 2010 | by MICHAEL MANNHEIMER Music | Posted In: Album Reviews

Brainstorm Thursday, Nov. 4

     
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Who said experimental pop can’t be played with a tuba?


IMAGE: Allison Cekala

[TWO-MAN GROUP] When Patrick Phillips and Adam Baz started playing as Brainstorm in the spring of 2008, they had one simple mission: to make as much noise as possible using only their eight limbs. It just took a few shows to realize how much pain that might cause.

“I’ve practically thrown out my back swinging my guitar around me and trying to grab the tuba at the same time,” Phillips says of the band’s onstage multitasking. “Playing a show is like a health routine. We definitely burn a lot of calories.”

Instead of relying on extra band members to flesh out its winding experimental pop sound, the duo decided to play everything itself. It’s a conceit that makes Brainstorm’s live shows resemble a sporting match as much as a concert, with Phillips juggling his guitar and, yes, tuba as Baz beats that crap out of his kit while trying to play keyboards at the same time. Both members also sing, an endeavor that only started to work after Baz began wearing a headset to conserve energy.

Brainstorm’s furious live energy is perfectly captured on its new 7-inch, Beast in the Sky. Recorded live to a Tascam reel-to-reel in the living room of house venue Dekum Manor, the record’s two-and-a-half songs showcase the band’s unique sound, which at times resembles Polvo (check out the tricky, elliptical guitar that closes out “Word Up - Upward”), a high-school marching band (Phillips’ unchained tuba playing) and a self-help manual (the shared, chanted vocals). It’s influenced by everything from the global sounds of the Sublime Frequencies label to Mississippi Records’ collections of old folk and blues songs, but Baz maintains that the band still keeps things relatively simple. “There are only a few overdubs on the 7-inch,” he says proudly. “Even though our music is weird or experimental, we keep a kind of punk-rock sensibility.”

Still, it takes a while for audiences to get used to the sight of a grown man playing tuba or a singing drummer, a fact that Brainstorm’s recent tour to the Northeast and back made perfectly clear. “People have tried everything in Portland, but it’s different in other cities,” Baz says. “But I’ve always appreciated when you see a band and you can tell exactly where all the sounds are coming from. I like when there’s no mystery involved.”

SEE IT: Brainstorm plays Thursday, Nov. 4, at Holocene with O Bruxo and Arrington de Dionyso. 8:30 pm. $5. 21+.

 
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