Our introduction to the music of Seattle-based keyboardist and composer Noel Brass, Jr,. came in the form of his release from this past year, entitled “Another Solo Mission.” The album title itself turns out to be a near-total misnomer; if Brass continues to release such inspired music, music that runs concurrently, seamlessly on the twin engines of exploration and excitement, there’s no way that Brass can keep interested parties and discerning from insisting on hitching a ride.
Fortunately, Brass seems more than willing to let us ride shotgun as he travels his spaceways, his spaceways, from planet to planet, and the songs he describes as “composed works from improvisational recording sessions” seem to our ears to be nothing less than map-points on an ever-expanding sonic universe, one crafted entirely and entirely admirably from Brass’s active imagination.
To attempt to describe “Another Solo Mission” is to make effort in vain – to paraphrase another solo mission visionary, this is an album whose landscape must be heard to be believed, and more important, must be believed to be heard.
For his part, Brass does a more than adequate job of putting an umbrella description over his essential sonic beliefs: “Part ambient, part psychedelic, all soul – influenced by early sci-fi soundtracks, film noir, and improvisation.”
All of these things are there in spirit, if not sound (but frequently sound), throughout “Another Solo Mission.” Your context clues come in the color provided by the song titles: “Cortex Joyride,“ “Bebop Stargate,” “Stranded Lover Movement” and “Bodegas to Starfields” among them, each one an infinity of sounds found by Mr. Brass. To drop yourself anywhere within the limitless scope of these sixteen songs, these seventy-seven staggering minutes, is to believe you’ve gained entry to a new world – a new world with endless spools of raw tape, capturing the sound of Klaus Schulze spreading out on an unreleased Chamber Brothers score to “Fantastic Planet,” while Philip K. Dick bobs his head in silent, cyborg-approval, all too happy to have Herbie Hancock thrusting his wacky spacecraft through an extraordinary expressway to our skull. Or something.
If it sounds like we’re gushing, make no mistake – we are. The journeys taken by Brass on “Another Solo Mission” are continually surprising, and not infrequently breathtaking. Get on board Brass’s great space-synth coaster, roarin’ to the other side. Highest possible recommendation.
“Yes, the simple answer to that is I have expressed the idea, my conviction, that there is only one story in the world. There are many stories in the one, but we all take part in that one story. We have our part to play, and so it seems perfectly natural to me that we retell stories and they work in different contexts and they shed light upon different situations, but they are all part of the same thing.” – N. Scott Momaday