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Album Review

The Brown Brothers: Explain Relativity


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It is a somewhat heady sensation to simply read the title of the Brown Brothers' album. Explain Relativity conjures all manner of thoughts about pretentious concepts, when in fact this collaboration between these siblings and their like-minded accompanists documents an ever so deft journey from ECM Records-like atmospherics to the stuff of which the Chess Records label of Chicago would take pride in releasing.

Call Matt and Clem Brown brave or foolish, but they chose to begin the fourteen tracks with the amorphous sounds of the former in the form of "Breathe (For Iser The Wiser)." But the duo does not just float along, they navigate themselves with purpose via the various electric and acoustic guitars they use, in addition to bass, percussion loops and synth. It's a simultaneously potent and alluring means to begin this set, fully in keeping with its name, and all the more remarkable for its fluidity: like the rest of the album, it was played via garage-band with the files exchanged over the course of six months.

And it is also a long way to "Blue(s) Time" as the near hour-long playing time slowly but surely draws to a close. During varied intervals, the Browns incorporate the vibraphone of Jim Diotte ("May in March"), the percussion of Mike McKenney ("Bossa Cuore Mi" among three others) and John Toste on lead and slide guitars ("Land's End"). Yet in that interim, during the course of "Medivac," the medley of "Wait A Minute Part 1"/"Big Al Is Back"/"Wait A Minute Part 2," and "End of March," time seems to slow at certain points, completely halt at others.

It is fitting homage to Einstein as suggested by the phrase Explain Relativity. but as the elder Brown references in his liner notes, The Who's Pete Townshend deserves recognition too, at least insofar as guitar overload goes during "Projects"/"Royal Pain," noted in the essay. What is borderline startling hearing tracks such as "Upper Berth," however, is the immediacy of the musicianship: it is as if these players were in close proximity to each other in the same room, nodding for changes and transitions, with smiles all around as performances conclude. Mixed for great clarity with the assistance of John Mailloux, who also did the mastering (at his own studio), the depth of feeling in the musicianship transfers directly to the sound quality.

Along with unsung guitar hero Bruce Bishop's A Dream Set Free (Mad Bunny Records, 2022), this project of the Browns' is an early entry into the 'under the radar' sweepstakes for 2022. Leaders and members of any number of local regional musical aggregations, the Brothers and their empathetic collaborative partners expended assiduous effort to complete recording on this collection of original material in 2021, not just when it came to the music, but also in regard to the duo-fold glossy CD package design courtesy of Karyl Brown and Kenneth Barry Peckham. Explain Relativity is worth holding on to in more ways than one.

Track Listing

Breathe (For Iser The Wiser); Be Minor; Medivac; Bossa Cuore Mio (For Helen); Wait a Minute, Part 1/Big Al is Back/Wait a Minute Part 2; Lafourcade; Projects/Royal Pain; Highlands Flung; May in March; Land's End; Blue(s) Time; End of March; Upper Berth; Large Reverb.


Additional Instrumentation

Matt Brown: electric & acoustic lead and rhythm guitar, bass, ukelele; Clem Brown: bass, electric & acoustic lead and rhythm guitar, percussion/loops, synth; John Toste: lead & slide guitars, percussion; Jim Diotte: vibraphone; Mike McKenney: percussion.

Album information

Title: Explain Relativity | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Brincadeiro Records

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