De Brauw’s first solo outing ‘Uptown’ is a calm divergence from his primary group’s work

trevorIt’s pretty cool when a musician you think you know, at least from artistic output, throws something your way you don’t really see coming. I remember when Bruce Dickinson’s first solo record “Tattooed Millionaire” came out and being totally surprised by what I heard. It was so different from his work in Iron Maiden, but hearing this fresh thing come out of him was pretty enthralling.

Same goes for Trevor Shelley de Brauw, a man who has devastated us with his anthemic riffage with instrumental giant Pelican. His debut solo outing “Uptown” is something that might furrow the brows of anyone who is expected a record in the same line as his primary band. That’s not even close to what we get with these six tracks. The music is chilled out and leans ambient, and there’s very little here in the way of heaviness or smothering decibels. But that’s not a negative at all, as this record exists in its own plane and separate from Pelican. De Brauw shows here a different style of expression on these tracks that were recorded over a decade, and it follows the artist from his quieter times living on a remote tobacco farm to his return to the anxiety-inducing Uptown section of Chicago. That push and pull can be felt throughout this record, as the time passage and unfurling of emotions is rich and real.

TDB_LP_cover_final“A New Architecture” opens the record with fuzz and guitars holding in the air, as the sound stings and then circles into a halo of clouds. The song goes into a psychedelic dream sequence, marinating your mind, and then quiet acoustics arrive, immersing you in calm as the track fades. “Distinct Frequency” is ominous and dark at the start, as a spacey charge jolts you, and a hazy weather pattern situates itself, giving off fog and a light mist. “They Keep Bowing” has ringing drone leading into the body of the cut, and then guitars begin to agitate and catch fire, giving off some heat. The track gets dark and moody, as a doom storm slowly spreads itself out, as everything slowly washes away.

“You Were Sure” has noise threatening early, feeling like danger is on its way, but then the track heads into the shadows. De Brauw’s dark, raw singing adds another texture, as the acoustics poke at you, and the track drives toward cold, menacing end. “Turn Up for What” runs 8:28, and I think you’re meant to chuckle at the title. Noise blips churn, as the song turns into a cosmic spiritual. Drone blows through the middle of the track, causing quivers and stomach rumbles, as the path loops over and over and makes you fall into a vortex. The 11:43 closer “From the Black Soil Poetry and Song Sprang” starts morbidly, as drone stretches like a thick fog, making it seem like a blackout. But then calm blue sky melodies emerge, with keys glimmering and guitars cutting. Brightness makes you shield your eyes, but the melodies soothe and row you down a quiet tributary on your way to complete meditation. Nice finish.

De Brauw is going to surprise some people with this record, and hopefully more of that is going to be of the pleasant type. “Uptown” is not a Pelican record, nor should it be, as de Brauw certainly is capable of doing many things well. This is a great record for immersing yourself in the darkness, letting your mind unravel, and finding deeper understanding of what makes you who you are.

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