Mysterious Myrtle Beach musician explores his dark side with Electric Bird Noise

For Weekly Surge For Weekly SurgeApril 2, 2014 

In what may be his favorite musical incarnation, Myrtle Beach guitarist/producer Brian McKenzie will perform locally in the guise of his solo project, Electric Bird Noise (EBN), April 11-12 in part to promote a brand new EBN release, “Kind of Black.”

McKenzie, who is fresh off a Hard Rock Café battle of the bands win with one of his many associated acts, October Chorus, stays busy at his Myrtle Beach studio, the Music Factory. Since opening in 2002 he’s been resident engineer, producer, guitarist and collaborator. When not tied to the mixing board McKenzie performs around town sitting in with bands, performing at reunion shows, deejaying as Catpuncher and the Mayor, and in solo performances. The 8 p.m. April 11 show at The Tavrne (531 Broadway St., Myrtle Beach) will feature former Drag guitarist Trey McManus, along with The Gray Click, Pan, and Sapphire. EBN will also perform off and on between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the 5th Anniversary of Studio B (2922D Howard Ave, The Market Common, Myrtle Beach) on April 12.

McKenzie has a storied musical career from a life spent in Myrtle Beach shaping the sounds of well-known local bands such as Sqwearl, Something About Vampires and Sluts, October Chorus, and others, and he’s sold production music beds for MTV-produced television programs. In 2011 he was the subject of an in-depth cover profile in Weekly Surge, and has been featured or referenced in this Music Notes column numerous times, usually related to an EBN release or a producer project.

“Kind of Black,” McKenzie’s eighth EBN release, represents an altogether new sound for EBN, one matching 11 very similar sounding guitar-only tracks full of dissonance and disharmony with the feeling that you’ve landed in a 1950s sci-fi horror flick. Picture the scientist’s laboratory, in grainy black and white, with the mandatory human brain in a large glass jar. The mad scientist has bombarded the brain with radioactive isotopes – big mistake. While his back is turned the brain starts to wiggle a little bit. Now is the time for track “Two,” which, like all the other tracks on “Kind of Black” is simply numbered as a placeholder on the project. By the time you’re listening to “Three,” the brain has worked itself out of the jar and is writhing toward the unsuspecting scientist.

In tracks “Four” through “Eleven,” the scientist has been eaten by the now-refrigerator-sized brain, which absorbed his intellect, and is seeking the beautiful daughter, and the arrogant U.S. Army general to dispatch them as well. This pretty much sums up “Kind of Black,” which in name only is a nod to Miles Davis’ iconic jazz masterpiece “Kind of Blue.”

“Kind of Black” is as mysterious as McKenzie. It’s not the kind of project you might hum along to, no, that’s impossible. In fact it’s an outright assault on your senses, experimental and discordant. It’s as if McKenzie, who is as known for his lush, melodic, harmonious compositions, wanted to remind himself (and his listeners) that he could muster and master the dark side as well. With ever-compliant indie label Silber Records (Raleigh, N.C.) as his distribution partner, willing to give McKenzie the freedom to do whatever the hell he wants, is it any surprise that “Kind of Black” is kind of strange?

“Feel No Other”

Also in McKenzie’s just-released pile is “Feel No Other,” a producer project also on Silber Records featuring globe-hopping vocalist Claudia Gregory. Here the 12 tracks lean in the direction of traditional pop, but take the left-hand turn you might expect from McKenzie’s and Gregory’s creative flow, untamed and original.

Gregory’s finely tuned, sometimes operatic voice, fits the compositions; torch songs from a tortured ingénue who would probably feel more at home in 1940s Paris, France than her native Myrtle Beach. Filled with unusual instrumentation, McKenzie’s restraint allows Gregory to shine as the clear focus of each torchy track.

To hear a McKenzie-produced project, live or recorded, regardless of its genre or sub genre, is to flirt with the mysterious, dark, brooding part of our psyches, the dark clouds and the night sky, which are every bit a part of all of us, as are the sunshine and sweetness that emerge on the other side.

Have a thought, comment or newsworthy item for Weekly Surge Music Notes? Send an email to pgrimshaw@sc.rr.com.

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