Brandon Seabrook's Needle Driver- Needle Driver

I'm on a mailing list for Earsplit PR who "...have been infiltrating international media outlets with extreme forms of music since 1999". I receive many emails each week, providing insight and promotional material for artists whose music will find only a limited audience. Time permitting, I check out the music from the artists and have found a few that I have enjoyed.

Brandon Seabrook is one. His guitar playing is different to almost all guitarists you will hear in 2018 as it pushes the boundaries of both melody and technical precision. On first listening to his 2017 instrumental release, Needle Driver, it was a lot to take in. I stayed with it though as I recognised that through repeated listens, there had to be a reward.

I'm writing these reviews for the common man, one that has yet to venture far beyond the verse/chorus/bridge syntax of most pop/rock/metal. This listener/ reader likely won't understand obtuse musical references that pepper publications such as Noisey and Pitchfork. So, how can I adequately describe the five cuts that Seabrook; drums and percussionist, Allison Miller (Ani Defranco); and electric bass guitarist Johnny Deblase have recorded across Needle Driver?

Apple Music classifies the album as 'Avant Jazz/ Progressive Metal'. That's as good as any relatable musical descriptor however the collection has little in common with Dream Theatre's epic prog metal, likewise the jazz produced by any of the great masters of the genre. Across Needle Driver, Seabrook takes a most unconventional approach to jazz guitar playing, then arranges it against hard driving distorted bass and a busy percussive contribution.

The guitar performance is a marvel. Seabrook forces his hollow-bodied electric into some impossible musical corners. Each note is intentional, a shaky combination of schooled technique against barely melodic thrusts up and down the fretboard. The relationship between Seabrook and the music he produces is similar to that of an out of control F1 driver regaining composure after momentarily losing control. The point being, it never really slows down, and it is very, very intense.

"Synonymph" the albums first cut, starts with a bass riff that morphs quickly into the mess of Seabrook's guitar, as the drums hammer away at a deceptively straight forward beat. That comment alludes to the genius of Seabrook's song writing; there is a lot less happening than what is perceived. The second cut, "Ocular Rabies" starts as a left of centre Soundgarden track before the prevailing musical narrative of the album kicks in; Seabrook's noodling guitar sitting atop a bed of the rhythmic jam of the drums and bass guitar. "Ocular Rabies" also features some epic stop/ start moments and is the cut the average metal fan might relate to. At the mid-point of the not-so-restrained "Ventwhorerisin", passages of acceleration move the listener from the lament of opening phrases into a powerviolence-esque slam-jam.

Okay so this isn't for everyone. To bring some context to the release I reached out to Seabrook for a chat in December of 2017. He is a great interview subject, and his thoughts on the album allowed me to recognise the broader picture that he was painting, musically speaking. I strongly suggest you tune into our chat here before diving into the music.

Purchase the album here: 

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Andrew McKaysmith