Brendan Faegre: drums, synths
Composer and drummer Brendan Faegre’s debut EP Broken Mirrors reconciles the stoical and expressive aspects of minimalism while playing to his strengths as a creator and performer.
Recorded with only a small drum kit and a monosynth, the music develops through relentless repetition. Drum and synthesizer layers gradually accumulate and evolve, while overlapping cycles of harmony and rhythm provide a slow-and-steady inertia. The surface crackles with cymbal blasts and the depths shake with sub-bass eruptions.
The EP consists of one 20-minute composition divided into four tracks, Parts I-IV. Part I is full of disorienting grooves and bass-lines, reminiscent of Faegre’s prog-rock past. It’s like watching a violent fractal animation, fascinating for its complex logic. In Part II, the focus shifts to timbre and noise, as a distorted contrapuntal array of synthesizer melodies slowly materialize.
Where Parts I and II show off Faegre’s abilities as a post-minimal composer, Parts III and IV give his inner drummer free rein. As a repeated groove emerges in Part III, the ascetic geometry of the first half begins to crack. Faegre finally begins to improvise, shaping time freely towards syncopated low-synth explosions. Agitated, almost drum ‘n’ bass-style rhythms work their way around the kit methodically, starting with just the hi-hat and eventually moving down to the kick drum. Part IV is ecstatic release, providing catharsis from all the restraint exercised thus far, and a fulfilling conclusion to the piece.
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Broken Mirrors sounds equally influenced by the rhythmic variations of David Lang’s early music, and by the distortion-driven sounds of prog-metal. There’s even a connection between Faegre and Lang, who, with his Bang on a Can co-founders, also made the pilgrimage to The Netherlands to join the scene around Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. But whereas Lang made his way back to New York and formed a new scene in the United States, Faegre seems to be going Dutch for the long haul, contributing his voice and ideas to the constantly evolving scene in The Netherlands.
The composition was originally written for live performance with the audience moving freely inside a massive surround-sound setup. (Faegre toured the piece in this format on the Dutch experimental music festival circuit, playing at Cross-linx, Gaudeamus, and November Music.) This 20-minute work is best experienced as it was originally intended: one hypnotic, ever-evolving moment for you to inhabit and explore.