Saturday, 20 October 2018

Steven Brown ‎– Half Out (1991)

Style: Modern Classical, Experimental, Synth-pop, Minimal
Formay: CD, Vinyl
Label: Les Disques Du Crépuscule, Materiali Sonori, LTM

1.   Decade
2.   A Quoi Ça Sert L'amour
3.   San Francisco
4.   The Thrill Has Gone
5.   Moaning Low
6.   In The Still Of The Night
7.   Voodo
8.   Out Of My Body
9.   Violorganni

Bass, Drum Programming – Nikolas Klau
Guitar – Chris Haskett
Keyboards – Ivan Georgiev
Synthesizer – Drem Bruinsma
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Harmonica – Luc Van Lieshout
Voice, Saxophone, Clarinet, Tape – Steven Brown
Mixed By – Gilles Martin
Producer – Nikolas Klau, Steven Brown

"His reeds recall the keening of John Surman or Jan Garbarek, his ravishingly simple grand piano the spaciousness of Satie. But when he plugs it in, his sequencer kicks like a burro. Brown is also a closet romantic. He has a penchant for lyrics that resemble automatic writing, and his gravity counterbalances Reininger's wackiness in Tuxedomoon. His fuck-off-and-die sublime brass/electro on Miles in Moskow, which blows both Lalo Schifrin and the Davis himself out of the water, is actually a Whitmanesque rumination on love. In fact, the entire CD (check his blowsy, cross-dressed cover of Billie Holliday's Moaning Low) seems to be an Imagist celebration of male-male romance"  The Wire (08/2005)
LTM Recordings
Not to minimize the great work that the LTM label has done dusting off the extensive back catalogs of labels like Factory and Les Disques du Crepuscule, but when I hear something like this Steven Brown album, it makes me wonder if their time and energy might be better spent on more worthwhile archival projects. 
Brown was, of course, a member of cult avant-garde band Tuxedomoon, the San Francisco collective that pulled up stakes and moved to Belgium in the mid-1980s. Last year LTM reissued a couple of albums by fellow Tuxedomoon alumnus Blaine L. Reininger, and it's actually a little weird how similar Brown and Reininger's solo material sounds, especially considering how little it resembles their work in Tuxedomoon. For their solo projects, both artists developed a distinctly MOR style of urbane, jazzy pop music with literate, world-weary lyrics. Luckily, Blaine L. Reininger's albums were saved by his prodigious talent on strings and his use of neo-baroque chamber quartet orchestrations. Steven Brown has no such saving grace however, and 1991's Half Out, his third solo album, suffers from "adult contemporary" blandness and an annoyingly overcomplicated production style. Each track is filled out with loads of superfluous compositional elements: keyboards, horns, emulators, synthesizers, strings, drum programming, accordion, guitars and backup vocals. It's all a bit exhausting, making relatively minimal tracks like the point-counterpoint "Violorganni" (a duet with Reininger) a welcome respite. For the majority of the album (and the four extraneous bonus tracks), Brown's music seems over-calculated and pseudo-sophisticated, from the tiresome opening monologue ("I've got a million things to say but I forgot. I could write a book but I lost my pen."), to the ill-advised Cole Porter cover ("In the Still of the Night"). In an effort to prove how intellectual and literate he is, Brown name drops Jean Cocteau, randomly breaks into French and Italian, and spins some incomprehensible yarn involving "Willy Loman with his Flemish Reader's Digest." Frankly, it's all a bit pompous, a collection of empty artistic gestures that don't seem terribly substantive. I seriously doubt I'll be giving Half Out another spin any time in the near future.

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