Brian Parnham, See None, Hear None, Speak None

In his first solo release since 2007, Brian Parnham puts forth an array of visions that, while tending more toward sources dark and tribal, also work their way into classic electronic-music forms to make for a very complete whole. See None, Hear None, Speak None comes off as a well-modulated tour through Parnham’s musical headspaces. The movement, from the drum-driven openers through wider ambient vistas and back, flows smoothly. Kicking off with the title track, Parnham first hits the listener with an almost downbeat feel. Ringing metallic notes meet string pads and round-toned percussion in a cool blend. But any thoughts of this being that sort of listen (which, considering the quality of the track, would not be a bad thing at all) get tribally drummed out at the start of “Head in the Sand.” This track and its followup, “Suspended Plumes,” are the most heavily tribal pieces here, and they make for a mind-bending stretch. “Head…” is energetic and forceful, a very potent calling fueled by absolutely thundering percussion. A sound like ringing glass and distant snarls of didgeridoo scrape across the backdrop, all underscored by a fast sequenced line. “Suspended Plumes” drops the pace and curls immediately into a thick, humid and slightly menacing space reminiscent of Roach and Metcalf’s Serpent’s Lair. Considering Parnham’s past working associations with Roach, the influence is not at all unexpected–it’s merely a continuation of chemistry. The drums are even more central here, and Parnham plays with their sound, curving and warping the shapes. He deftly melts this track into “Eroding Shore” which, as he mentions on his site, he sees as something of a reprise to a track from Roach’s Magnificent Void. The homage is right there in the big, bold pads that rumble on the  low end and a sense of spacey vastness. This is the first beatless track on the disc and it leaves no question that Parnham can handle this type of flow, too. There’s an interesting stretch that begins with the track “Half Full.” This and the two tracks that follow are very short; the longest is a shade over two minutes. They come off like vignettes of dense, building sound, brief experiments forming a tenuous bridge to the latter half of the disc. “Half Full” coils up a coarse, rippling pad that squelches into the insectile, analog tangles and slightly more open space of “Tipping Point,” and then “Half Empty” roars in, sounding for all the world like big sonic buzzsaw tearing open the flimsy fabric of reality. This is just a big, savage, gut-check rip of sound at the edge of noise, and I love it. What makes this passage even more effective is the way Parnham uses them, along with a few cracks of electro-thunder, to guide us into “Business As Usual,” which has not only a lighter tone, but surprises with the appearance of a guitar. There’s an old-school familiarity about the tone of it that evokes the feel of a blend of Nine Inch Nails and Jarre. The low end is very Reznor; the high side is pure European electronica; the whole thing is three minutes that grabs and holds the attention. The retro grooves continue in the big and bouncy “While We’re Here,” which is simply a sequencer-lover’s joyride. (Need more? Forward to “Enjoy the Ride.” Which I guarantee you will.) From there Parnham works back down into darker abstract spaces with the centerpiece of the disc, “1111.” Fluid pads ebb through as didgeridoo lines rasp and slither across the space. This is a very deep track, energized by low-key percussion pulses and more of that skittering analog. One of the best standalone tracks I’ve heard in a while for pure immersion. Didge lovers (like myself) get their payoff in “Earth Mourning,” as the breathy primal tones curl around metallic clatters and an atmosphere of distinct unease. This is a very claustrophobic track, constantly and uncomfortably closing in until Parnham nudges it open with upward-moving pads. This is perhaps the most narrative track here, and Parnham plays equally well in the dark and the light. See None winds it way to the quiet finality of “Last Breath.” A meditative flow marked with a heartbeat pulses that, without a hint of morbidity, slow over time. It brings this superbly made ride to a calm close. If you like Brian Parnham, See None, Hear None, Speak None is a disc well worth the five-year wait. If you haven’t been familiar with him until now, this is an amazing place to start.

Available from Brian Parnham’s web site.

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