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CD Review: Brontosaurus' Cold Comes to Claim

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Apropos to their otherwise unfortunate moniker, this strong debut from the Chicago duo of Nicholas Kelley and Nicholas Papaleo sounds like a paleontological discovery from the past — carbon-dating points to the late '90s/early 2000s. The classically trained, multi-instrumentalist Nicks have only been together since 2010, after a stretch in the now-defunct Picture Books, but this 32-minute LP blends some of the better turn-of-the-century indie elements into haunted music leavened by gorgeously forlorn melodies and a sense of adventurousness that belies rote nihilism. "Listeners, please prepare/your brains for bombardment, notes borne of despair," Papaleo implores on the gothic opener "Beware," while plucked-electric notes and stand-up piano-rolls waltz a path between Alice-era Tom Waits and early Black Heart Procession. It's a pleasing, Carnival-from-hell opening, but the duo isn't content with that one motif and launches into a series of stop-start eruptions behind Kelley's thunderous, Doug Scharin-like drum fills. Brontosaurus' tendency toward a percussion-heavy climax finds more '90s forebears in slo-core acts like Rex, where quiet acoustic-leaning segments — the nylon guitar-and-synth haze of "Bloodlines," for instance — or tape manipulation elements — the dystopian, Grandaddy-esque computer-scapes of "Designed Disabled" — drift into epic, math-flavored crescendos. It's not all bouquets and bj's, though. The duo slides into the baroque on the LP's longest track, the eight-minute "Mouths Move," as organ splashes and cymbal crashes combine for proggy overkill. Neither Nick is a particularly awesome vocalist yet, either. But these aren't deal-breakers, and this promising debut leaves you believing that future Brontosaurus-digs will bear even more compelling discoveries.

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