On April 3, New York City-based musician Natalie LeBrecht -- under the auspices of her solo project Greenpot Bluepot -- released the album Ascend at the Dead End, a concise yet sprawling 32 minutes of kaleidoscopic sounds and complex textures. Co-mixed by Avey Tare of Animal Collective and Matt Marinelli (Beastie Boys, Lauryn Hill), the music itself details an all-encompassing dialogue between the artist and her sonic surroundings, a conversation in which the listener cannot help but be immersed.
Invoking a kind of detached, decidedly more ethereal Siouxsie Sioux, LeBrecht is buttressed by locomotive percussion and dizzying harmonies. In particular, the opener "Royal Parade" recalls the edginess of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)."
Throughout the album, Greenpot Bluepot uses open 4ths and 5ths in the vocals, somehow reminiscent of Byzantine chant. The influence of drone music is constantly reinforced, even while the geographical provenance of the tones, textures, and rhythms shift underneath.
This fluid movement sometimes occurs within the same song, as in "Ascend," with its Asian and Middle Eastern allusions. "Hanged Man" builds on a simple medieval harmony of parallel 5ths -- which would have been widely dismissed in the Baroque and Classical traditions -- to create a kind of heretical liturgy: delightfully askew, almost vulgar.
There is also a subtle commentary about the universality, or perhaps interchangeability of our world's innumerable folk traditions. Rather than articulate this verbally, however, LeBrecht utilizes seemingly omnipresent pentatonic melodies, which are a tangible reminder of the common musical language that unites us.
These elements could be have been disorienting and overwhelming, but the songs never veer away from accessibility. Even "Melting Sword," with its static, sea-tossed harmonium dirge, stays rooted in the commanding pop vocalizations of LeBrecht. The enigmatic chanteuse possesses a predominantly straight tone that takes on a husky gravitas in the lower notes that thins out into an airy quaver in the higher range. And while the vocals are the chief mechanism driving the songs' direction, the great paradox of Greenpot Bluepot is that the music triumphs expressly because the voice is not truly center stage. Ultimately, LeBrecht's vocals serve to draw us back into the musical panorama she creates. The voice is simply another instrumental layer that melds into the instrumentation like the finely woven threads of an immense tapestry.
First and foremost, Ascend at the Dead End is a quintessential offspring of 21st century creativity -- a swell of conglomerated musical information, the listening experience is a bit like encountering sounds via Twitter feed. Natalie LeBrecht seems to offer us the totality of musical history at once -- snippets fly through our periphery, all demanding our attention simultaneously. We the listeners are left at a stand-still, in awe amidst the music's perpetual motion.
This review is cross-posted at postpostrock.com.