FREELOADER: BRENT A. PETRIE’S VARY US, ARTIST
Welcome to the latest edition of “Freeloader” in which we review albums that you don’t have to feel like a douche for downloading for free. Today Satan Rosenbloom checks out the latest from Brent A. Petrie.
It says something that Mesa, AZ’s Brent A. Petrie uses his rather account-like legal name for this project, rather than something more descriptive like “Refracted Bionosphere” or “Celestial Mitosis” or “Djentleman Scholar.” Petrie’s just a regular dude. He posts regular dude pictures of himself on his website. He posts his personal e-mail address on his website. He plays everything on Vary Us, Artist himself. On one hand, this exploratory album is all about Brent A. Petrie, Creator of Music. On the other, I hear very little ego in it. No vocals, no flashy solos, no epic song lengths. Just deeply textured, often very heavy soundscapes.
That self-effacing approach works well when Petrie’s compositions are mostly textural, as with the spacey electrified post-rock of “Companion Cube” or the spectacular “Teamocil,” which find him nesting guitar arpeggios and beautifully bridging the electric/acoustic divide. These tracks remind me of Gordian Knot in the way that they take complex rhythmic counterpoint into a soothing, nearly new age direction. They don’t say much, but they’re complex and emotionally ambiguous enough to work well as soundscapes.
The purely heavy tracks like “Beta Minus” and “Portion Control” suffer a bit in comparison – not because the riffage or performances are poor (they’re not), more because they lack the emotional context that either vocals or some kind of unheaviness would provide. It’s a simple principle of learning psychology: you learn more from punishment (auditory punishment included) when you understand why you’re being punished.
Petrie’s at his best on album bookends “It Varies” and “The Id,” when he synthesizes the electro-acoustic experimentation and the djentle (djentile?) post-metal stuff. Here the album transcends its somewhat faceless, fragmented feel and yields some actual personality. The scope of Vary Us, Artist is impressive. But Petrie is no Xasthur — he doesn’t make the kind of music that benefits from isolation, as his self-coined “bedroom music” tag would suggest. I want Petrie to open that bedroom door, get in my face and scream “I’M MOTHERFUCKING BRENT A. PETRIE, AND I’M HERE TO BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND WITH MY ACCOUNTANT-LIKE NAME AND MY AWESOME ALBUM.” Maybe then we’ll get something that feels as strong as it sounds.
(3 horns up)
Download Brent A. Petrie’s Vary Us, Artist right here. You can also pay something for it via Paypal, and Petrie will split the proceeds between himself and the ASPCA.