Joe Grimm: Brain Cloud

The inspiration for Joe Grimm's Brain Cloud was twofold: from Glenn Branca came the desire to generate music that would present itself as (in Grimm's own words) “a single mass of varying density, comprised of tens of thousands of individual events” (having participated previously in the performance of a Branca “100-guitar symphony,” Grimm was struck by the humongous sound produced by the electric mass), and from the piano music of Charlemagne Palestine came a heightened sensitivity to the “ghost tone” that arises when two notes sharing a particular frequency in their overtone series are played. Grimm (aka The Wind-Up Bird) thus ventured to create overtone-based music filled with harmonically-related pitches and the “throbbing harmonics that arise as a result of their interaction.”

The hour-long recording of acoustic sound masses that resulted alternates between three “Brain Cloud” variations (created using voices, violins, horns, and piano) and two “Harpsichord” solo improvisations—a natural and wisely sequenced arrangement. Certainly Palestine 's influence is heard in the rolling waves of piano that stream beneath the droning voices in the twenty-minute “Brain Cloud I” and in “Brain Cloud III” (arranged for three pianos only) even more. “Brain Cloud IV” opens the album with high-pitched drones that alternately suggest amplified tones bleeding from electric wires and Tuvan throat singing, while the “Harpsichord” pieces present shimmering masses whose unvarying pitches reinforces the percussive character of their staccato execution.

Though the foregoing description might suggest otherwise, the pieces aren't static. Grimm maintains interest in “Brain Cloud I” by subtle modulations in volume, tempo, and arrangement (layered shifts from single to multiple layers of voices and pianos recur throughout). Likewise, “Brain Cloud III” (an eighteen-handed piece recorded live with three pianos with each played by three people) begins softly with the playing a single piano before swelling into a huge mass when the others join in and then again reverts to the peaceful rumination of the single voice halfway through. By contrast, the dense roar generated by the three instruments towards the piece's close is something to behold.

August 2008