DONOVAN’S BRAIN – Chiêm Bao Thấy Bậu

Career 2022

DONOVAN’S BRAIN –
Chiêm Bao Thấy Bậu

A band from Bozeman venture out to map out barely-there cinematics and soundtrack a road to illusion.

Shipping robust psychedelia for more than three decades now, this Montanan ensemble have never ceased searching for new ways to express their exploratory spirit, and the offer to score an experimental film by Vietnamese auteur Mr. Tam, telling a tale of two lovers who can meet only in a reverie, provided the team with an opportunity to indulge and fully engage in their fondness for Kosmische Muzik. A law onto itself, the German-gene genre perfectly fit the group’s intent and, married to a meager outline of the movie’s synopsis, has liberated Ron Sanchez’s collective in both stylistic and melodic terms enough for a whiff of freedom to fill the eleven numbers on offer. Not that the results feel avant-garde; on the contrary, the music here is highly evocative and captivating.

More so, for all the illusory narrative and progressive expanse of this album, it’s very much down-to-earth emotion-wise, with kaleidoscopic soundscapes such as opener “Première Rencontre” – sculpted by Mellotron-esque strings – bursting into orchestral balladry of “I Am Not” where Bobby Sutliff’s twangy licks soar against Sanchez’s velveteen voice. Still, while his singing will be withdrawn from the same breathtaking, organ-bolstered flight in “A Story In A Story” that’s placed closer to the record’s finale, electronica-driven cuts like the bell-tolling “Connexion Complète” wrap the drift into exciting, if slightly abstract, sense of adventure. But then there’s a spectral pop of the piano-splattered “Unexpected” to draw the listener towards other worlds, and the funereal grandeur of the folksy “Holding My Own” to drench them in drama, before the epic “Cultured Memory” unfolds its vivid aural panorama which is propelled by Ric Parnell’s sympathetic drumming – “Chiêm Bao Thấy Bậu” becoming the veteran’s last-ever full-length release – and the anthemic “Distance Is Created By Time” adds triumphantly nervous uplift to the sonic trip.

What’s truly unexpected is a spaced-out “Knives” that smells of late ’60s pseudo-innocence which Scott Sutherland’s effervescent guitar, rumbling bass and unassuming vocals render scintillatingly warm to contrast the dry “I Don’t Dream Anymore” which reeks of raga until its monotonous flow turns urgently mesmeric, and “Des Formes Qui Changent Lentement” enshrouds ethereality in a mercurial mood-shift of a cosmic scope to make this vista crystal-clear and hopeful, though somewhat heavy. So whereas watching the titular movie might seem optional, listening to the film’s soundtrack should be deemed essential.

*****

July 18, 2022

Category(s): Reviews
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