As I’ve stated in previous posts, being the EclecticMusicLover, I like when artists and bands incorporate lots of different influences to create genre-bending music. One such band is Brain Ape, a London-based outfit who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they call “scratch rock.” In August 2017, they dropped their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records. It’s an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks with some of the best titles I’ve heard, and running nearly 55 minutes in length.
Brain Ape consists of Minky Très-vain, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and Sol Albret who plays bass and sings backing vocals. Jacob Powell played drums and sang backing vocals on Auslander, but is no longer with the band due to other commitments. In an interview with Rebecca Singer for her blog Read Between the Lines (which you can read here), Minky explained the strong influence of Nirvana on Brain Ape’s sound:
“It’s incredibly cliché, but the album that changed my life musically was “Nevermind.” After hearing that album, I knew exactly what type of music I wanted to make. I think one of the most interesting things about [Nirvana] is the legacy that they’ve left behind having only made a handful of albums.”
And regarding their unusual name, Minky explained:
“I really like the name because everyone seems to have their own ideas where it comes from and what it means. For me, there are about three contradicting ideas bouncing against each other, all within two words. I like how abrasive it sounds, yet to me sounds rather beautiful too. But the core idea for me, when we were coming up with a name for the band, was that what we do is very instinctual: neither Sol nor I are classically trained musicians. We’re not even particularly good at what we do. It just so happens that when you put the two of us in a room together with instruments we seem to think along the same wave lengths. Genetically we’re all apes, and when you remove any conscious thought you end up just creating from instinct. That’s why our logo is a chromosome. I guess we feel like the music we make comes from our very own genetic makeup.”
Photo by Gregory Hesse-Wagner
Brain Ape gets right down to business with the outstanding album opener “Give Me My P45,” a rousing punk-infused number with grungy guitars, a dominant buzzing bass line and loads of crashing cymbals. Minky’s echoed and distorted vocals add to the song’s gritty texture.
Next up is “Watercolour,” a grungy track that shifts back and forth from hard-hitting verses with gritty guitars and hammering drums to softer interludes with delicate chiming guitar, a characteristic of many of Brain Ape’s songs. Minky’s plaintive vocals rise and fall with the intensity of the music, wailing “I don’t know why I still breathe” during the heavier verses. Nirvana’s influence can clearly be heard on the six minute and 22 seconds long “Graphomania.” Quiet, melodic verses with gently strummed guitar alternate with intense, shredded guitar riffs, heavy bass and powerful drums. Minky emphatically sings “He doesn’t know what he should be.”
“Respect Your Icons” is a fast-paced punk rock gem with frantic riffs of shredded guitars and pounding drums. Halfway through the tempo slows to a thumping drumbeat and psychedelic reverb-heavy guitars. The guys deliver more psychedelic goodness with “The Quick Brown Dog Jumps Over the Lazy Fox.” And what an awesome song title is that! The track has a mesmerizing melody with awesome guitar work and a buzzing bass line so heavy you feel it in your core.
The sublime “I Could Use Some Food” opens with gentle strummed guitar and Minky’s quiet, almost whispered vocals, then explodes into a crescendo during the last minute of the track before quieting back down at the outro. It’s one of my favorites on the album. “Stop Sulking” is another track having a definite Nirvana vibe, with sharp, clipped verses, gnarly guitars and heavy bass. Minky repeatedly wails “I don’t want to play.”
Punk makes a return appearance on “Das Krokodil Will Barfuß Sein,” with shredded guitars and fuzzy bass over a frenetic drumbeat, and “Extra-Tourette’strial,” a psychedelic head banger punctuated by Minky’s screaming vocals and distorted, reverb-heavy guitars. Brain Ape offers up some heavy metal on “Blood Blister,” with crushing bass and shredded guitars over an aggressive, hypnotic drumbeat. With his echoed, distorted vocals, Minky shouts “It wasn’t me, you got it all wrong.”
“Oh, David” is an ominous sounding track with throbbing, speaker-blowing bass and fantastic guitars that go from jangly to gritty and back again. Album closer “Hunger” is a complex, retro-sounding track that seems at times to channel 60’s bands The Yardbirds or The Doors. The track features psychedelic-sounding echoed vocals and more of Brain Ape’s signature guitars that alternate between jangly and shredded, with an extended reverb-heavy outro. It’s a dramatic finish to an exceptional album.