Build: Build
New Amsterdam

It's tempting to draw comparisons between Build, a quintet featuring composer and violinist Matt McBane, bassist Ben Campbell, pianist Mike Cassedy, drummer Adam Gold, and cellist Andrea Lee, and the other Brooklyn-based chamber-rock outfit Slow Six but the two groups share little beyond some instrumental overlap. First of all Slow Six's sound is heavily electronics-oriented (even if it is the case that that dimension is subtly integrated) and the material on its two incredible full-length releases shows the outfit at the top of its still-early game. Formed by McBane in 2006, Build has its sights set slightly lower, insofar as we can safely treat its eponymous EP (or mini-album) as representative of the group's approach. Build's sound is also fundamentally acoustic with the natural sonorities of violin, cello, piano, bass, and drums coming together in a spirited five-track release that showcases the group's range, generally light touch, and mobile character while also revealing an occasional influence.

Build demonstrates a notable stylistic range in the disc's material. “Magnet” cleverly works a two-bar bowing pattern that McBane stole from a bluegrass fiddle tune of unknown origin into an intricate hocketing arrangement, resulting in an insistent rollicking swing that the group navigates like a well-oiled machine. Cassedy introduces the melancholy ballad “No Response” with playing that's both elegant and yearning, something McBane follows with his own singing tone. A projection of what his first New York would be like, “Imagining Winter” is suitably dark in tone and exudes a chilly unease in its marriage of militaristic drumming, Rhodes accents, and ruminative melodies. Steve Reich's influence on “Drivin'” is apparent in the piano patterns and minimalistic writing for the strings (there's a touch of John Adams too in the tune's hypnotically rolling rhythms) but Build moves beyond pastiche to create a long-form interweave that holds the attention for its thirteen-minute running time (if anything, in tackling a piece so Reich-like, Build's sound here resembles that of the Bang On A Can All Stars).

One reservation: nothing against Gold's playing, which is perfectly fine, but Build's sound would be more distinctive with drums removed from the equation, especially when the piano and bass function as an already able enough support for the violin and cello playing (tellingly, Reich excludes a conventional drum kit from his pieces, despite the pronounced percussive dimension within his music). Nevertheless, Build registers as a more than promising debut.

September 2008