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Brian McBride, "The Effective Disconnect"

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cover imageAlthough specifically composed to soundtrack a documentary about Colony Collapse Disorder called "The Vanishing of the Bees," The Effective Disconnect is not a dramatic departure from the sort of thing Brian McBride has always done extremely well: subtle and serene music with an undercurrent of sadness.  As such, it basically feels more like a scaled-back follow-up to 2005's excellent When Detail Lost Its Freedom than an unrelated side-project.  It's probably much too subtle to accomplish much in the way of garnering of new fans, but it is certainly a pleasant diversion for those of us converts waiting around for something more substantial to surface from the Stars of the Lid camp (like that damn feature film that seems to have disappeared).


The Effective Disconnect - Brian McBride

When they were initially discussing this project, the filmmakers suggested that Brian to try evoke the "gloriousness of bees" (among other things) with his score, a task that he made a sincere but ultimately doomed effort to accomplish.  Brian McBride is incorrigibly Brian McBride and that is what makes all of his efforts so reliably enjoyable.  Heavy-handed, heroic concepts like "glory" simply don't fit into McBride's world of understated, floating melancholy.  I, for one, am perfectly fine with that, though Brian himself has modestly lamented that his album is "more appropriate for a different and more forlorn film."   Despite his self-deprecation, quite a few rays of light manage to break through the clouds over the course of the album–most effectively in "Supposed Essay on the Piano," where beautifully warm strings and horns glide across the somberly pulsing piano chords.  To my mind, the muted and somber atmosphere seems perfectly attuned to the subject matter anyway, as The Effective Disconnect makes a suitably enigmatic and sublime elegy for the millions of bees that abruptly and mysteriously dropped dead in 2007.        

Nevertheless, though I consider the album both a success and a worthy addition to the SOTL oeuvre, it is a bit too compartmentalized to be as engrossing as McBride's previous work.  That is an inherent peril in composing a soundtrack, obviously, but it is unfortunate that some of Brian's better ideas are not given more time to unfold and develop.  There is definitely a decreased emphasis on repetition here, as themes come and go much faster than usual.  That step away from one of McBride's strong points, however, is nicely balanced by a new emphasis on strong melody.  In fact, there are some absolutely heavenly moments captured here, such as the chime and string motif in "Beekeepers vs. Warfare Chemicals," that easily stand with anything Brian has done to date. The Effective Disconnect is definitely not lacking in stellar material, but it is presented in a way that handicaps its effectiveness as a whole.  This album feels like kind of a Brian McBride sampler platter, showcasing everything that makes him wonderful (spaciousness, an elegant melancholy, soft-focus haziness, etc.) but never plunging completely in.  Still, the seeds of an artistic breakthrough may be taking root here, as a more substantive, long-form work in this vein (though maybe with a bit more grit) has the potential to be McBride's future masterpiece.



Last Updated on Monday, 25 October 2010 01:00  


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