Local Wire

Tempe's Brain A Gets Cryptic and Creative with His Experimental Pop Art Sounds

It's 2014 and high time you got some new music into your playlist -- seriously. And that's doubly true when it comes local music, of which there's an overabundance of in Metro Phoenix. The Valley's music scene is gifted with burgeoning bands and emerging artists who will be making waves and getting attention this year. And starting today, Up on the Sun will highlight more than a dozen such acts for our series 14 Bands You Need to Hear in 2014. First off is writer Jason P. Woodbury's piece on Tempe's mad scientist of sound Brain A.

William Currier has a knack for putting things together. The Tempe resident records as Brain A, piecing bits of lo-fi bedroom pop, hip-hop, and experimental noise, uniting the elements with a psychedelic haze. The fusion is seamless, made all the more impressive by Currier's production techniques.

"I have never used a computer yet for any of my pieces," he says.

"I play guitar, bass, organ, keyboard, a drum machine, a sampler, turntable, and record the vocals in an assortment of ways," Currier says. Currier started out assembling Brain A's pop art compositions on a four-track cassette recorder before moving on to an eight-track CD-R deck.

The Early Amputees: Volume 1, the first in a series of three releases Currier has planned under the "Early Amputees" banner, demonstrates how his approach bears fruit: seven short snippets, it opens with "Masters," in which Currier cryptically sings, "No masters / Only servants / Burn the contract and its purpose" over swirling noise. "In Warm" finds him rapping/singing over a stuttering distorted funk song. "More Chalk" sounds like sludge metal as hip-hop, while "Futurists" sounds like a short-circuiting MP3 player or a record played at the wrong speed. Or both at once.

The work has sonic ties to Currier's pals like Noface (who recorded a collection as Brainface) and Tucson rapper Isaiah Toothtaker, and his previous work with Analog Sweat, his duo with Tyson "Illfranklyn" Powless of UN3EK Sy5TEM, which has been on hiatus since 2013.

"The overall concept of the 'Early Amputees' is rooted in the shortness of the song structures and me testing myself to see how much energy I can channel into a small amount of time," Currier says. "They're also some of my favorite numbers I have created since I first started recording . . ."

Currier doesn't plan on taking Brain A live until the summer, focusing instead recording and the freedom offered by sites like Bandcamp, where he publishes his work. He has more lined up, songs that find him making more traditional sounds. "In the future, I plan on [incorporating] more traditional styles for projects though and using more modern equipment," Currier says. "But for this year, it is this solid set of lo-fi treats from my back pages."

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.