Review: B/B/S/ - Brick Mask

Within those lurking, echo-washed guitar notes opening up “Brick” comes the inevitability of upward ascent. These early intrusions on silence are like the initial conversational remarks between strangers – cautious, stifled into single notes and fleeting swells that lay out the first few items in each collaborator’s timbral shop window – and yet while the volume increases via a steady, carefully negotiated incline, the music itself materialises into some beautifully unpredictable shapes.

Belfi’s percussion is perhaps the most explicit instigator of the unexpected, evoking an almost meditative focus on tone and instrument resonance. “Brick” spills open not with the expected eruption of snare/crash groove, but with a ride cymbal quivering at the boil – Baker and Skodvin are immediate in their response, galvanising their assortment of phantom sighs and sending wails of drone and overtone cascading over the top. Once again, the path swerves, with Belfi turning to thunderous tribal attacks of the toms as if the trio have mistakenly hurtled into a thick and oppressive patch of rainforest; distortion rises up in ominous arcs, glimmers of feedback speck the gaps between the trees.

Things mellow in the second half; “Plants” turns strums and hits into mere strokes and brushes; gentle, wind-chime esque clangs backlit by sparsely applied guitar screeches. The intensity increases as the piece continues, yet not by overloads of texture or vicious, crashing climax – rather, the darkness solidifies into something that throttles sound into whimpers and moans, like the last slithers of light fracturing an otherwise pitch-black. The group manage the dynamics beautifully – this is music that flows out of unconscious thought, while effortlessly avoiding the yawning jaws of improvisational cliché.