David Bernabo is more mad scientist than composer, a man who huffs the fumes of his incendiary creations only to rocket through a stratosphere of musical possibility, pregnant with terrifying speed and half-crazed laughter. Bernabo and his faithful Assembly, a rotating 25-piece nano orchestra, have crafted their latest full length Happener Magicker like one concocts a volatile stew or molds a brilliant, glaring alloy, juxtaposing seemingly disparate musical elements into a heaving, living monster.
The album is a testament to Bernabo’s innate ability to couple succinct composition with outlandish experimentation, as he effortlessly unifies several genres under the umbrella feel of an avant-garde jazz improvisation. The sequencing of Happener Magicker allows each track to exist within its own strange universe while working brilliantly within the mad scientist goals of the entire album.
From the contemporary classical Afro-beat of “Sub Saharan” (which features one hell of a face melting guitar solo), to the post-nothing freak out of “Mahler Box” and then the charging, off-kilter indie rock of “Out There,” the album refuses to remain stagnant or even take a breath.
“Ivvto” opens the album with oscillating horn samples, skittish drumming and Bernabo quietly harmonizing with a score of gorgeous voices before a post-rock breakdown mid-song. It picks up again to showcase more intricate vocal work that recalls The Dirty Projector’s more complex choruses before the jam-bandy conclusion. “The Eclipse” pounds closest to popular indie rock than any song on the album, but includes subtle quirks like Bernabo’s blue-eyed soul and slightly off key string arrangements, adding a sly veneer of artfulness to a track that otherwise would have been fairly straight forward.
“My Gun” exits the album with a down tempo beat and Bernabo still stretching out those soulful, white boy pipes that are both endearing and indifferent. Classical acoustic strumming weaves through the percussion and electric feedback with the steady jaunt of a Mediterranean afternoon, layering an ironically lax tone on top of some fairly dirgey lyrics, while Bernabo croons, “This my-ah-hy gun,/I hope to abuse it…on you.”
To say this album has everything but the kitchen sink is an understatement; it’s a constantly shifting collage of kaleidoscopic musical vision, with fearless leader Bernabo leading the charge. Each song, as evidenced from above, provides no easy list of influences or inflections, but showcases a playful, accessible demeanor that could have quickly gotten lost amidst high-brow pretensions without careful attention. And that’s Happener Magicker ‘s charm, giving you sizable doses of art and pure pop fun in the same instant.
The album release party is this Saturday at the Brillobox in Lawrenceville. Bernabo and the whole gang will be playing with Meeting of Important People at 10PM.