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Brett GLEASON is a young New York-based artist whose interest in music started at an early age. Released in January 2010, “The Dissonance” is his recording debut, a ‘solo-pilot’ project that, while still rough around the edges in spots, comes across as a rather more impressive proposition than the majority of such endeavours. Deeply rooted in Gleason’s difficult, solitary life after a childhood accident left him with a serious speech impediment, as witnessed by the articulate yet somewhat unsettling lyrics, it is one of those dark-hued efforts that – rather than wallowing in misery - manage to convey a sense of stubborn optimism. Gleason’s talent immediately strikes the listener - his gutsy, expressive voice as much of an instrument as the more conventional ones. However, fans of the more traditional varieties of progressive rock should approach “The Dissonance” with caution, because this EP has definitely little to share with the epic-sized and –themed offerings that these days seem to dominate the market. Using electronica as a foundation, the five (actually six, since a ‘surprise’ track is featured at the end of the EP) songs may draw comparisons with such diverse artists as Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Tori Amos and Kate Bush – all of them certainly progressive in their own distinctive way, though not in the ‘Seventies’ sense of the word. Short yet intense, catchy in a cerebral sort of way, from a lyrical point of view the songs on “The Dissonance” share a similar, darkly existentialist vein as those of acts such as Radiohead or Porcupine Tree (and Gleason’s music may certainly appeal to fans of either band) – though in a more genuinely personal, less contrived way. Though there is not a lot of variation in the songs’ structure, the EP manages to avoid sounding flat or monotonous. Most numbers tend to be on the slow side, with the driving, passionate I Am Not as the only exception. Opener Futile & Fooled is a good example of Gleason’s approach – an apparently nice, melodic song underpinned by a layer of almost ominous electronics, sprinkled with piano, and with a somewhat off-kilter structure. The Worst Part is cut along much the same lines; while both The Escape and Idealize the Dead see things go into slo-mo mode, building on the eerie atmospheres conjured by the electronics in contrast with the controlled, well-modulated vocals. Edgy and intellectual in spite of its deceptive simplicity, “The Dissonance” is an intriguing taster of Brett Gleason’s potential that is likely to appeal to those who are always looking for new interpretations of the old ‘progressive’ warhorse. Since he is reported to be actively working on his first full-length release, it will be interesting to see in which directions his musical vision will develop with a longer running time at his disposal.
Raffaella Berry: Septmb 22, 2010
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