Sound Scene Express Previews STEP DOWN TOOMEY by David Bernabo


Sound Scene Express preview the first single from STEP DOWN TOOMEY, my new solo album. Following in the fashion of 2016's THE INN, this album takes improvised drum recordings and finds me again composing to the drums. This is a short album -- 7 songs -- since I lost interest in this technique, but I'm extremely happy with these songs, which go to further extremes than the tunes on THE INN. 

Check out Sound Scene Express's article

and listen to the album here:



How Things Are Made: Episode 8 by David Bernabo


Brian Riordan, Matt Aelmore, and myself, the trio that is How Things Are Made, changed locations for this one. In Brian's basement, we added Rhodes electric piano and bass to our usual mix of trumpet and processing. We would totally have a record deal with this one if it was 40 years ago.

HOW THINGS ARE MADE, our seventh album, now released by David Bernabo

How Things Are Made is the trio of Brian Riordan, Matt Aelmore, and myself. We just released our seventh record called Episode Seven: Kayaks, Safety Boots, Electronic Signs, Cereals. Take a listen below.

Archived Album Review: The Meets - It Happens Outside by David Bernabo

The Meets’ It Happens Outside is a curious entity. The album plays with the mixture of acoustic, electric, and electronic sounds. There is also an interest in jazz and modern composition, but both interests are tempered by self-plunderphonics in pursuit of the beat. The album, I presume, is the brainchild of Brandon Locher, who has been pumping out a steady stream of interesting projects with his co-founded label/support structure, My Idea of Fun, out of Johnstown, PA. The piece that first drew me in was his humorously distant Conversations where a phone call chain sustains itself by the next caller answering the previous caller’s greeting and ensuing discussion. But It Happens Outsideis a different beast.  

The music is dense and constantly shifting. There are a few entry points for me that may help frame this review. If the music is conceptual, the concept may be dealing with minutiae. The album’s editing is the central player. Songs are built upon small edits - I’m guessing thousands. The Books have mined this ground before, but their tone always felt a bit academic. It Happens Outside grooves. It breathes. At times, it lets some steam off. Jeremiah Cymerman, who has released a few stellar albums of precise composition and editing on Tzadik, also comes to mind. Where Cymerman usually limits his palette to a few instruments or source sounds, Locher has amassed an army of sounds from which he can pluck. Madlib (mostly anything) or Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma also tie into the elastic nature of some of the rhythms.  

With a palette dripping with sound sources, the element that ties the record together is the presence of rhythm. Collections of drum kits, electronic beats, clatter, and rumbles form a bedrock for each piece to grow and shrink, adding melodic ornaments and then submerging those elements under new findings. The ingredients in each mix are fascinating and leave the listener eager for the next combination of disparate sounds. “Stoned Eyes” rolls out drums patterns, piling on layer after layer - piano, guitar, synth, turntable, percussion - until the listener loses frame of reference. What is a sample, what is real? “Nobody, Not Even the Rain” is another parade of rhythms - think less college tribal and more Mt. Eerie tribal.  

There are plenty of melodic statements. In fact the album is hyper-melodic. New statements pop out of every corner, lasting anywhere from a second-long blitz to a developed arpeggiated chord pattern. The most successful passages develop a motif while manipulating the harmony. Take “The Witching Hour” - an acoustic guitar introduces the melody. Vibes form a duo. Electric guitar, a trio. Then the ensemble enters - squeeks, record scratches, piano, and drums breaks. Swells of horns add atonality and in some cases either microtonality or intonation issues. The piece lets the listener in and then provides room to wander and explore. In contrast, the first half of the record acts as show-and-tell where Locher and company throw a million ideas at the listener. Most of those ideas stick. About two-thirds through the album is where the listener needs some time to absorb the album and luckily/skillfully, “Even When the Time Comes” and “The Witching Hour” provide some time for reflection.  

When I consider “free improv,” I usually bucket the term into two camps. 1) Music that is created on the spot, but tends to pull from each musicians’ experience, skill, and history and 2) music is that is searching for new sounds with every step forward. While It Happens Outside was created from a number of sources, many improvised or separated from the intent of this album, this album is by no means a free improv record. But I feel like the goals of the latter definition serve as a mission for this album. Each new second brings the opportunity and the responsibility to further the music - to change the context of the previous setting by introducing a new statement. 

Pick up the LP/DL:

MakerDate, Mine Factory Opening, and CDR by David Bernabo

I write this note to you while listening to the stream of the new Jim O'Rourke record - it is great, unique from his other song-based records, unexpectedly reverb-y, with an unexpectedly low mix on the voice, complex, harmonized, and just crazy good. I'm also making dinner. Slow cooking chuck roast that I froze a few weeks ago. Dehydrating rhubarb. Roasting squash. Quick pickling cucumber.

Anyway, three things are coming up this week. An art opening, an event with Host Skull-related activity, and MakerDate, where my newfound filmmaking skills will be auctioned off for a filmmaking date.

CDR Pittsburgh, 5/14, Space Upstairs

Host Skull has been working on our third record for a bit. We started a little over a year ago, and we are close to completion. We'll be presenting the first video at the CDR event. The song is called "Big Tan" and it closes the record. Here is some background info on CDR. Note: lots of folks will present works in progress. Should be interesting!

"CDR (Create, Define, Release) is an evolving multi-platform music project delivered by a collective of music producers, artists and thinkers passionate about creating opportunities to share the process of music production.

CDR sessions offer music makers the opportunity to submit their own songs (burnt onto CD, on a USB or uploaded in advance) then hear them played in a club environment over a superb soundsystem.

By getting a chance to publicly listen to their sonic works in progress, producers can identify any tweaks or development their songs could benefit from. They can also gauge people’s responses as well as discussing their tracks with others attending."

Live music at Space Upstairs

MakerDate, 5/16

Assemble, founded by my college-era and current-era friend Nina Barbuto, is a great gallery that has consistently engaged the community and brought "making" to the neighborhood through children's programs, interesting curation, and unique events. MakerDate is one of those unique events. It's a fundraiser, but you can bid on an experience. Get a private welding lesson from artist Dee Briggs. Make a zine with Maggie Lynn Negrete. And, um, hang out with me while making the FOOD SYSTEMS films, learn a bit about Adobe Premiere, and strategies for editing. Lots of people are donating their skills and there is a silent auction, too. Check out Nina on CBS!

The event is this Saturday, May 16. MakerDate Tickets


Mine Factory Opening, 5/17

A bunch of us have studios in 201 N. Braddock Ave, which is a building that is often referred to the Mine Factory building or, sometimes, the building that Stacyee Pearl's dance studio is in. Whatever you call it, the building houses the Mine Factory gallery and the tenants are having a group show on Sunday, May 17. The show is called NO VACANCY. The opening starts at 5pm and ends at 8pm.

Lastly, I'm raising some modest funds to cover the remaining expenses of the Food Systems film. By backing the project, you will ensure that you can see the films. Early previews have been very positive. So, I think you will like it. If you can help (even $5 gets you one of the films), I greatly appreciate it! Thanks! Back the project here: Food Systems Kickstarter



Also, while you are weighing your options with those selfishly-me-related activities, maybe you want to go to Conflict Kitchen's Palestinian Film Festival instead. 5 Broken Cameras screens Thursday night at Regent Square Theater. Divine Intervention screens at Melwood on Friday. And Saturday, 5/16 has a double feature with the short, The Dinner, and the long, When I Saw You, under the tent in Schenley Plaza.