DORIS BRENDEL AND LEE DUNHAM
Hot(tish) on the stylistically diversified heels of 'Upside Down World', Doris Brendel and Lee Dunham return for a third outing of genre-hopping eclecticism. 'Not Utopia' seemed to be about the two musicians finding their collectively compositional feet across a number of sonic divergences. 'Upside Down World' was about refining and honing those combined skills into eclectic musical explorations and, at times, controlled prog-fuelled experimentation. 'Eclectica' now sees their inherent eclecticism presented in the most well-rounded of ways. The album's still eclectic as hell, but it now feels like all the songs belong together on the same album. I hasten to add that this is in no small way a criticism of their previous works... the eclectic the better for me... I'm happy enough if bands want to throw in gentle folk ballads, extreme black metal heaviness, and lounge jazz-techno-grind fusions all on the same record. However, while diversity still rears its head through a range of moods, instrumentations and styles, there's just something about the suite of songs on 'Eclectica' that make them feel as if they're bound by a compositional kinship.
Partly, this is undoubtedly to do with expectations. Eclecticism is Doris and Lee's thing. The genre-hopping is no longer a surprise... particularly on an album with a title that even fucking states its intent, and a strikingly marvellous cover that suggests such, with musical notes flying out of a range of boxes that are, presumably, supposed to represent the sonic heterogeneity at work... each box being a different side to their modus operandi, I guess. So, yes, it's partly to do with expectations being met. But it's also to do with a greater bias towards the heavier side of Lee's guitar. Not heavy per se, and certainly not in any sense of heavy ubiquity in the instrumentations. Rather, the rock/metal roots in his playing seem to shine through more emphatically than ever before. Even if not in terms of rock/metal genre-affiliation, he's exercising his rock/metal abilities within the context of songs' intriguing progressions... which is true progressive musicianship in my opinion - taking what's gone before and exercising your chops in new, refreshing contexts, and all befitting for Doris' rasped/husky voice, which has never sounded better.
That being said, there's also some retro stylings at work here, too. Just take the lyrically satirical 'Love App', which sees some early Iron Maiden inspired twin guitar goodness embedded in a groovy appropriation of a Queens of the Stone Age styled stomp. And I mean very early, Di'Anno era Maiden... so I'm talking Murray/Stratton here, with some licks that sound like a direct homage to the metal titans' eponymously titled debut album. But then there's the likes of 'I Rather Wear Black', with its heavied-up, naturally infused progressions sitting comfortably alongside a range of mellow divergences... this one is as much about diversity within its own space as it is about how it contrasts with other tracks on the album as a whole. The intro to 'Animal', and initial vocal phrasing, might be a little too close to 'Superstition', although the song, fortunately, evolves into its own beast (pun intended), and a descension into a touch of batty quirkiness with a cacophony of animal noises.
Then there's the upbeat/melancholic fusion of moods in 'Balloon', with some beautiful strings; the Celtic-infused opener with its sweeping piano harmonies creating a beautiful backdrop for Doris' moving vocal; and the emotionally-charged ballad 'Crying Shame' with some truly heartfelt singing. 'Retribution' has to be one of the album's most rhythmically intriguing tracks, which contains a number of movements and key motifs through its changing time signatures in its near-six minutes duration, climaxing with some sublime vocal harmonies. And 'One World' sees the album close with a cut of jaunty reggae.
Anyone remember David Cronenberg's 1986 remake of 'The Fly'? Where Seth Brundle's semi-successful attempt at teleportation between a couple of Telepods results in his biological fusion with a fly? When he becomes Brundlefly? Well, 'Eclectica' feels like the Brendel-Dunham musical symbiosis has now been perfected and the fusion of their combined aesthetic intent has reached a new level... although we are talking Brendel-Dunham here rather than Brendel-fly! I'll even forgive them their fleeting moment of Stevie Wonder mimicry... so, a perfect ten out of ten from me.
Sky Rocket Records
Review by Mark Holmes
1st May 2017
1) The One
2) Love App
3) I Rather Wear Black
4) Crying Shame
7) Losing It
8) Death and Taxes
10) One World
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"'Eclectica' feels like the Brendel-Dunham musical symbiosis has now been perfected and the fusion of their combined aesthetic intent has reached a new level..."