By Bradley Bambarger | Published June 2018
Brooklyn-based jazz drummer Dan Weiss has an uncommonly wide musical purview, having studied Indian classical music, along with moonlighting in metal bands. He also has become an ambitious composer, whether fronting the large ensembles of his previous two albums or the high-impact, genre-defying quartet Starebaby. Weiss has cited David Lynch’s surrealist TV series Twin Peaks: The Return as inspiration, and one can hear that in the album’s darkly alluring, funhouse-mirror vibe. Musically, the album’s a blend of metallic jazz, prog- and post-rock that melds deep sophistication with visceral impact.
Weiss has ideal partners in guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Trevor Dunn and keyboardists Craig Taborn and Matt Mitchell, each having intrepid interests from art-metal to experimental electronica. Mitchell and Taborn’s electronic keyboards color the picture vividly or buttress Dunn’s growling bass. But it’s cool-toned acoustic piano that carries much of the melodic information on “Annica.”
Weiss, thinking like a composer rather than just a drummer, favors subtlety in his expressive accents and solos. He merely heightens the loose-limbed groove when the rest of the band drops away in “Badalamenti,” the song title an homage to Angelo Badalamenti, who wrote the ethereal music for Lynch’s Twin Peaks. That said, Weiss’ work on “Episode 8” bursts with kinetic virtuosity. The recording by Ron Saint Germain (engineer for the likes of Sonic Youth and Soundgarden) captures the drummer’s compositions beautifully, in all their dynamic, hooks-galore intensity.
Starebaby: A Puncher’s Chance; Depredation; Annica; Badalamenti; Cry Box; The Memory Of My Memory; Veiled; Episode 8. (60:11)
Personnel: Dan Weiss, drums; Matt Mitchell, piano, Prophet-6, modular synthesizers; Craig Taborn, piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers; Ben Monder, guitars; Trevor Dunn, electric bass.