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The Silver Creature by Brian Ellis

West Coast American musician Brian Ellis lists the instruments he plays as guitar, bass, keys, saxophone, trumpet, xylophone, theremin, kalimba, Bolivian 12-string mandolin, Peruvian pan pipes, percussion, drums and sitar along with being a programmer and editor. As the sole performer and creator of the music on his new recording The Silver Creature, he might have been aided by having a producer look over his shoulder and provide another set of ears from time to time in order to make suggestions about the direction some of the pieces follow.

It’s not that Ellis’ music is bad, because it’s not. It just that most pieces end up being quite similar. The music tends towards an overlapping of multiple instruments and instrumental lines not always mixed in fulfillment of bringing out important phrases. The end result tends towards electronic rhythmic aspects that sit in time as opposed to moving effortlessly though and forward within it.

As an example, "The Morning After," "Para Ti" and "Traveling" are three pieces that are very much in the Miles Davis Bitches Brew mode. They both include multiple electronic instruments swirling together to create a kaleidoscope of individual notes and sounds all fighting for recognition, yet in a subdued manner. The glue that held this kind of music together for Miles was his incomparable horn, the reeds of Bennie Maupin and Wayne Shorter and polyrhythmic percussion, elements lacking in these compositions. Instead, Ellis gives us the salad, but not the main course. This is not to say the result is a mish-mash because his music is obviously well thought out with strong direction. There just aren’t any elements for the listener to focus on in order for the electronic sounds to have meaning within context.

By contrast, "Night Trails" is a much more cohesive venture. Opening up with ring-modulated and repeated trumpet notes above a loose fitting, yet strong techo-bed that does not employ too many diverse concepts, one easily hears form within the unity/contrast spectrum. The trumpet bows out and a beautiful and sustained melody appears enhanced at the end of the track by a layering of additional electronica elements that are in support of the melody. "Flute Salad" follows the same formal outline as "Night Trails." In this piece, a buried and electronically altered flute line opens the piece within the Brewish-percussive/electronic soundscape. This gives way to a sustained melody before a rather ingenious bass and drums duet.

"Home Cookin’" is interesting in the manner which Ellis combines his sustained flute and keyboard lines while interspersing a quasi-horn melody and occasional scream trumpet notes, and the beginning and end of "Say" has some truly exquisite drum work within a power trio format ala Rush. Ellis has a real ability and a future, but bringing in a collaborator could help give shape to his concepts. The album is released on Benbecula Records, an electronica label located in Scotland.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Brian Ellis
  • CD Title: The Silver Creature
  • Genre: Electronica
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Benbecula Records
  • Rating: Two Stars
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