THE NEW 7-INCH SINGLE from Portland duo Brainstorm covers a tremendous amount of ground in a mere 10 minutes. Title track "Beast in the Sky" hosts sheets of guitar squall from Patrick Phillips, which are tightly knotted to Adam Baz's syncopated stomp, while the two members trade reflecting vocal lines to form a round. Meanwhile, B-side "Word Up – Upward" traverses through a lightly creeping verse to the all-out blare of its instrumental break, with liquid guitar drops performing as much of a percussive role as Baz's drums, which in turn are wholly as melodic as Phillips' front line.
It's an indie rock sound approached from a bird's-eye perspective—and leavened with Old Weird America, white-kid math, African blues, instrumental post-rock, and classic soul. With Baz doing double duty on drums and keyboards, and Phillips throwing in tuba lines along with his guitar, it's easy to be impressed by the sheer size of Brainstorm's music. They don't sound like a two-piece, but it is essential to the complexity of their compositions—and to the comprehensive approach of their music, which is intrinsically reliant on the fluidity of interplay between Phillips and Baz—that they are.
Baz and Phillips first played together as members of Ohioan, and Brainstorm began when the two decided to play together in the summer of 2008. "We shot back and forth our musical tastes and inspirations and what we were listening to," says Baz, "but we never really talked about what we wanted the project to be. Then we realized there was a high level of compatibility between us, and it worked out well."
The "Beast in the Sky" single, a joint release from Lasercave and High Scores and Records, follows last year's excellent full-length, Battling Giants, but for this single Brainstorm wanted a rawer sound than the pristine recording they'd achieved on Giants. They tracked it live onto tape at Dekum Manor, playing in the same room with only a tiny amount of overdubbing. "We went for a little rougher approach to try and capture something closer to our live sound," says Phillips. "And some of our older songs have parts that are quite disparate and change quickly. We've been writing songs that are more seamless in transition—like, 'Beast in the Sky' definitely has a steady beat throughout it, and I think is more accessible as far as something people can dance to."
"I grew up listening to punk, and that transitioned into noise and experimental and textural music," Baz says. "At some point when I was in college, I stumbled upon Tinariwen. I started branching out and went to Mexico and Venezuela and collected a lot of music down there. And so, throughout that I was interested in synthesizing that with a pop sensibility, or punk, or experimental rock."
"When we started out, we exchanged mix CDs of what we were listening to," says Phillips, "and Adam put on things like Tinariwen and USAisamonster; it got me thinking about the sort of guitar I wanted to play. That, mixed with being very proximate to Mississippi Records and the reissues they put out, and Sublime Frequency stuff, that sort of informed my own guitar playing. That's where the tuba came, too—our attempt to make as many sounds as we can as a two-piece."