Noel Brass Jr. - Broken Cloud Orchestra
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Review Text Over the last seven years, Noel Brass Jr. Has been one of Seattle's most soulful and adventurous keyboardists, tirelessly exploring subtle variations on the music of the spheres, forever striving to express the sound of a love supreme. Both in the psychedelic soul-jazz unit Afrocop and as a solo performer, Brass reveals the improvisational mastery of a musician attuned to a profound celestial wavelength. You can hear this rarefied skill all over his debut album, Broken Cloud Orchestra. When the opening track "Cortex Overflow" glows into life, you instantly feel your blood pressure lower. It's a gentle keyboard meditation seemingly composed of crystallized stardust, like Lonnie Liston Smith gone New Age. "Day In Day Out" is as dainty as a music box motif, but imbued with subdued gospelized soulfulness and synth quasars reminiscent of obscure '70s Motown maverick Mandré. It's definitive inner-space music, ideal for ogling the constellations in a wistful mood. "Tilted North" is slightly darker-hued and more abrasive than anything else on Broken Cloud Orchestra, but it's still contemplative and beautifully mellow. "Eight Moons" offers a sanctified soulfulness that's almost unbearably light and nuanced. This is jazz that's ascended into an angelic state of grace. It is healing music that twinkles, whorls, and wafts in the same exalted airspace as the most cosmic New Age, sometimes approaching the gravitas of German mystics Popol Vuh. As for "Prism Jousting," imagine if Miles Davis' In A Silent Way were dissolved into it's molecular ingredients Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul's luminous tones distilled into a lavender vapor. It takes a special breed of human to generate the sort of preternaturally beneficent and tranquil sounds heard on Broken Cloud Orchestra. Brass strives for a sort of sacred stillness in his compositions, achieving an ambient penumbra that's as translucent as it is transcendent. Creating music that both soothes and stimulates your higher mind is surpassingly difficult. But Broken Cloud Orchestra's 11 tracks which all smoothly segue into one another form velvet links in a chain that binds the record in a cohesive, sensuous sphere. "All the expressiveness and feel is all I can give," Brass says with regard to his creative impulses. "It would be nice to see some goalposts moved in a weird age of soullessness." Broken Cloud Orchestra subliminally does just that, from Brass' nimble hands to your ears.