Brad Rose, recording under the North Sea moniker, records music without a comfortably designated genre. It could be considered noise, or ambient, or maybe even “experimental,” though while he may be one to warp and manipulate sounds, what he does is, in fact, very meticulous. The compositions on his new effort Bloodlines emit an illusion of chaos, where in fact, it only takes a few listens to discern the pattern and the direction that each track takes. There is structure and there is discipline, in spite of each track being unsettling, viscerally brutal and even terrifying.
To clarify, Bloodlines does contain quite a bit of noise. Not necessarily feedback, but strange effects and electronic buzzing, a harsh kind of distorted wall that is ultimately more frightening than what a guitar is capable of producing. The strange paradox of the album, however, is that many of the sounds therein are beautiful, or even soothing, making for an experience that, while aesthetically ugly, make for an altogether intriguing and even enjoyable listening experience. The title track, for instance, opens as unsettling but not entirely unpleasant electronic gurgles, gradually building into a fearsome composition of harrowing noise. Through careful pacing and a mesmerizing build, however, Rose does not repel the listener, but draw him closer, finding a captive audience even when the sounds reach their most intense.
The 11-minute “Missed Court Dates” begins in much the opposite way of its predecessor. Rather than take the tack of starting off small and inflating toward a more brutalizing denouement, its introduction is cacophonous and shrill. Little by little, that piercing sonic assault dissipates (though not entirely), leaving a more digestible two-note hum, offset by the playful shriek of opposing electronic forces. Over the course of its extended length, it builds back up, ebbing and flowing like a breathing and flexing factory, spewing noxious emissions and absorbing any light that enters. The far too brief “Acquiesce” even reveals something resembling a melody, offering brief respite from the clangs and crashes, yet “Reunion” is even more accessible, and simply gorgeous. Drummer Mike Weis backs Rose’s soaring soundscapes with metallic taps and clicks, the entire composition coming together to form an oddly sublime sci-fi soundtrack.
By the final track, “Revelation,” Rose has successfully undergone a slow journey from a strange, almost melody-free sonic assault toward a more accessible and listener-friendly form of electronic throb. And, as cliché as it might sound to call Bloodlines the kind of album that rewards the patient listener, it very much seems to be that way by design. Rose may not specifically delve in noise or ambient music, but his innovative and unusual brand of electronic music offers something truly exciting for those unafraid to face their fears.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.