Turning on Your Double
With their follow-up to 2010's self-titled EP, Brace/Choir have made an LP of idiosyncratic trance-rock geared towards the listener of whole albums. At its core, Turning on Your Double is a series of dark and ecstatic tales of mental illness, written and recorded in Berlin, Germany amidst tectonic shifts both personal and political. The eight songs are a meditation on social and individual struggles with compulsive disorders, power and inverted schizophrenia: four people united by an idealistic vision of collaboration who come to think they're one -- and the cracks that show in their lives and personalities when the music stops. Multi-instrumentalists Alex Samuels, Max Gassman, Cristoph Adrian and Dave Youssef have committed to switching instruments and writing each other's lyrics in order to allow each instrument to speak with multiple voices and each voice to speak from the depths of multiple psyches. Or is it one? The sound is a shifting and shadowy amalgam of treated hollow body guitars, Farfisa organ, various synthesizers (Roland Alpha Juno 1, MFB Synth 2), percussion, and drums. Themes such as cuckoldry ("Be Let Down"), satanic fiction ("Biond"), technology-related neuroses ("Coil"), and the killing of Osama bin Laden ("Fallmen") are unveiled through a combination of rapturous improvisation and sublime songwriting, while "Five Fingered Leaf" showcases a powerful reworking of the Arseny Tarkovsky poem "But There Has to Be More," as featured in Andrei Tarkovsky's classic film Stalker. Childhood friends and Massachusetts natives Samuels and Gassmann met Californian Youssef and Berliner Adrian in Berlin in 2005 and formed the Joy Division-inspired speed-surf band Dus Vor Kount. While Samuels went to Berlin to pursue a degree in philosophy and work as a journalist in 2000, Gassmann was working as a street musician and bicycle mechanic. When Youssef and Adrian went on hiatus from the band (writing a PhD dissertation and training as a speech therapist, respectively) Gassmann and Samuels continued on as a duo and, out of necessity, learned to play other instruments. When the four were reunited in 2008, Brace/Choir was born, now committed to switching instruments, making slower, more repetitive music, and writing each other's lyrics. The band has played Berlin's most important under- and overground venues, including the Berghain, Kater Holzig and Wilde Renate. They've also opened for such diverse acts as Kurt Vile in Leipzig and doom supergroup Shrinebuilder. Festival appearances include 2011's Friction Fest and multiple Fusion Festivals. Songs from their debut EP have been featured on the BBC (Tom Robinson's "Introducing") and American college radio (97.3 WRIR Richmond, Virginia and 88.1 KDHX St. Louis). In 2011, the band contributed a song to the Le Diable Amoureaux compilation put together by Swedish occult publishing house Malört Vörlag, which commemorated the re-printing of the earliest work of Satanic fiction by French author Jacques Cazotte and also features Jarboe, John Zorn, Gavin Friday, and Art Zoyd (amongst others).