Barra Brown ‘LFT:RT’ CD/Cassette (Cavity Search) 4/5

New releases from the Portland, Oregon-based, musician have become a real treat. Not just for the outstanding quality of the music itself but more so for the unpredictable nature of the end result. From the jazz-driven concepts behind the Barra Brown Trio and the Barra Brown Quintet to the otherworldly “sonic explorations” of Brown’s work with Alex Meltzer as the beat-smiths behind Korgy and Bass, the end result is something completely different and a sound reinvented each time out.

Even exploring past Brown solo projects like the incredibly moving four-track EP, ‘These Souls’, which mesmerises with this haunting folk-ish jazz aesthetic, or the expansive nature of Brown’s ‘Poem Project’. For the latter Brown’s visionary approach was to afford fellow artists and musicians the opportunity to reinterpret his original ‘Poem’ track, originally housed on Brown’s ‘Songs for a Young Heart’ album, resulting in a stunning nine-track opus.

‘LFT​:​RT’ sees Brown tear up the rule book once again, in a way, to create something that acts as a perfect amalgamation of all the realms of music he has become accustomed to specialising in. At its very core, that is precisely what the album seeks to address through its overarching message: the concept of binary thinking. Within a variety of contexts from socio to political, the idea that we as people or we as a collective can only be one thing is a thought process that ‘LFT:RT’ seeks to rebel against and does so effectively through the various styles employed for this album.

Through a mix of sampling techniques and live instrumentation, Brown has created some fantastic pieces of music that comprise this release – ‘RIDE’ which looks at the prejudices involved in police profiling with the help of rapper ePP on lead vocals, the blissful intricacies involved within the composition for ‘SAM’, the eerie hip-hop nature of ‘NOAH’ which is propelled by its driving trumpet, and the closing ‘rhetorical’ which at times excels as a dreamy slice of future soul.

Perhaps there’s a sense of irony that ‘LFT:RT’ was largely recorded in isolation during the world’s global quarantine period in 2020 – for an album that strives to inspire out-of-the-box perspectives and perceptions, Barra Brown was subsequently challenged to create music with fellow contributors and collaborators without the luxury of being able to share and create together in the same space. It is absolutely a challenge that Brown has risen to and subsequently delivered something incredibly special.

Imran Mirza