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Bryan Deister — jack of all trades, master of none

Art-rock hopeful's sprawling Spines of the Heart reviewed

Those who regard Radiohead, middle-period Pink Floyd, or the entire length of Tales from Topographic Oceans as the centerpieces of art-rock might find something amusing here.
Those who regard Radiohead, middle-period Pink Floyd, or the entire length of Tales from Topographic Oceans as the centerpieces of art-rock might find something amusing here.

Publicity materials for Bryan Deister assert that he's a student at Berklee School of Music and that he has extensive experience in studying and performing music of all sorts, be it classical, jazz, straight-ahead rock, funk, or sounds of the more experimental, spare, minimalist sort. Promising, yes, and one did approach his debut album Spines of the Heart with anticipation. Might this one-man band be a new maverick to bring elements together in unexpected ways and give the world a new sound?

Video:

"Seven Eight"

...off of Bryan Deister's <em>Spines of the Heart</em>

...off of Bryan Deister's Spines of the Heart

Not the case. Spines of the Heart might be said to be ambitious, as there are 21 songs and the album clocks in at over 90 minutes, but the ambition seems to be to sound as close to influences as possible. Those who regard Radiohead, middle-period Pink Floyd, or the entire length of Tales from Topographic Oceans as the centerpieces of art-rock might find something amusing here.

What there is, I find, is an overkill of mid-tempo minimalism, a ponderous sadness Deister wallows in with a voice that suggests a cross between Jon Anderson and Tweety Bird, and a lethal lack of variety. Monotony overrides whatever eventual tone he wanted to achieve. One track, though, catches my ears and catches them again on re-listens, "Seven Eight," a reference to the song's time signature. Vaguely Zappa-like with an angular tempo, Deister changes the mood and brightens the session with a manic vocal that manages to sound both bemused and angry, and there is a tastefully off-kilter organ solo that hopscotches over the colliding rhythms nicely.

One wishes there was more of this, that there was more in Deister 's bag of musical styles. Rather than swing for the fence, he settles for competence, and that does not make one interested in what future efforts he will offer his audience.

  • Album: Spines of the Heart
  • Artist: Bryan Deister
  • Label: No label
  • Songs: (1) Responding Well (2) In Her Eyes (3) Have You (4) Silent Screams (5) Approaching (6) Brighter Dawn (7) Into the Sky (8) Gone (9) Come (10) Today (11) Nobody Angel (12) Wait (13) Emily (14) What You Want (15) The Bread (16) Always Further (17) Seven Eight (18) Nothing More (19) Sure (20) Vacant Eyes (21) Apart of Me
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Those who regard Radiohead, middle-period Pink Floyd, or the entire length of Tales from Topographic Oceans as the centerpieces of art-rock might find something amusing here.
Those who regard Radiohead, middle-period Pink Floyd, or the entire length of Tales from Topographic Oceans as the centerpieces of art-rock might find something amusing here.

Publicity materials for Bryan Deister assert that he's a student at Berklee School of Music and that he has extensive experience in studying and performing music of all sorts, be it classical, jazz, straight-ahead rock, funk, or sounds of the more experimental, spare, minimalist sort. Promising, yes, and one did approach his debut album Spines of the Heart with anticipation. Might this one-man band be a new maverick to bring elements together in unexpected ways and give the world a new sound?

Video:

"Seven Eight"

...off of Bryan Deister's <em>Spines of the Heart</em>

...off of Bryan Deister's Spines of the Heart

Not the case. Spines of the Heart might be said to be ambitious, as there are 21 songs and the album clocks in at over 90 minutes, but the ambition seems to be to sound as close to influences as possible. Those who regard Radiohead, middle-period Pink Floyd, or the entire length of Tales from Topographic Oceans as the centerpieces of art-rock might find something amusing here.

What there is, I find, is an overkill of mid-tempo minimalism, a ponderous sadness Deister wallows in with a voice that suggests a cross between Jon Anderson and Tweety Bird, and a lethal lack of variety. Monotony overrides whatever eventual tone he wanted to achieve. One track, though, catches my ears and catches them again on re-listens, "Seven Eight," a reference to the song's time signature. Vaguely Zappa-like with an angular tempo, Deister changes the mood and brightens the session with a manic vocal that manages to sound both bemused and angry, and there is a tastefully off-kilter organ solo that hopscotches over the colliding rhythms nicely.

One wishes there was more of this, that there was more in Deister 's bag of musical styles. Rather than swing for the fence, he settles for competence, and that does not make one interested in what future efforts he will offer his audience.

  • Album: Spines of the Heart
  • Artist: Bryan Deister
  • Label: No label
  • Songs: (1) Responding Well (2) In Her Eyes (3) Have You (4) Silent Screams (5) Approaching (6) Brighter Dawn (7) Into the Sky (8) Gone (9) Come (10) Today (11) Nobody Angel (12) Wait (13) Emily (14) What You Want (15) The Bread (16) Always Further (17) Seven Eight (18) Nothing More (19) Sure (20) Vacant Eyes (21) Apart of Me
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