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Sparkle in Grey, "Brahim Izdag"

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cover imageFollowing their recent split release with legends Controlled Bleeding, this newest work from Sparkle in Grey retains the band’s improvisational flexibility, but lightens the mood somewhat.  Brahim Izdag takes a lot of directions, from complex post-rock excursions to traditional folk sounds and much in between, but somehow the band still manages to make it sound like a cohesive and unified, if somewhat sprawling record.

Old Bicycle/Grey Sparkle/Moving Records

The three songs that lead off Brahim Izdag do an exceptional job of encapsulating the feel of the record as a whole.  "Samba Lombarda" is at first late night field recordings, complete with crickets, barking dogs, and what may even be gunfire courtesy of Matteo Uggeri's electronics, but soon transitions into rattling cymbals and distorted guitar from Simone Riva and Alberto Carozzi (respectively).  The guitar and bass (by Cristiano Lupo) combination takes on an anxious, but funky sound reminiscent of the late 70s post punk scene.  However on the following "Iurop is a Madness (Attempts)", the band shifts into spoken word from Zacaharia Diatta and a weird, unique reggae sound.

Then, "Iurop is a Madness (Refuse)" is all sputtering percussion samples and Eastern European pop viola by Franz Krostopovic, making for an odd balance of the peculiar and the familiar.  Sparkle mix these elements throughout the album, such as melding dubby bass, Middle Eastern percussion, and noisy guitar on "Gobbastan Pt 2 (Unwelcome)", which again makes sense even with all these contrasting elements being used.  "Grey Riot" reprises the European strings, but placed with cheap Casio synth beats, and eventually transitioning into what sounds like a thrashed up traditional folk song at the end (and still barely resembles the Clash song it is constructed from, partially because it is sung in Chinese).

While these border-crossing excursions are all excellent, the more experimental and abstract songs were the ones that stuck with me most.  "Gobbastan (Pt 1) (Arrival)" utilizes processed found sounds, synthetic percussion, and noisy guitar coming together as some sort of prog rock outburst, but never fully settling down into a specific groove.  The longer "Song for Clair Patterson" ends up a mish-mash of horns and metallic tinged percussion along side field recordings.  Somehow even with this unconventional arrangement the overall composition is very cohesive, and subtly jazzy and funky without being trite.  "Brahim Izdag (Pt 2) (Fall and Rise)" also features the band creating some open, relaxed sounds but via a more traditional arrangement of synths and guitars.  The instrumentation may be traditional, but the sound overall is entirely unique.

One of the biggest strengths of Brahim Izdag is how well Sparkle in Grey manage to jump from style to style, from deconstructed musique concrete compositions into traditional European folk music, but still make the pieces make sense when placed alongside each other.  It is a quirky and fun record that may not take itself too seriously, but the band themselves are consummate professionals as far as their performance and production is concerned.

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