BREDUX: COLLECTED EDGES
Penchant Four Records
CD and digital
Google the name of singer Kaylé Brecher plus the word “unique” and you’ll find many a review, article, and promotional piece using that description. Listen to her a bit and you’ll hear why it’s been the go-to adjective. The voice is elastic and ethereal, the arrangements of songs you thought you knew are often wildly reimagined and drenched in atmosphere, while the genre-defying pieces she wrote herself don’t follow typical forms or structures. Bredux: Collected Edges gathers up previously issued tracks, heavily leaning on those from one release called Spy Music, with both versions of its title track from 2005. Featuring her own lyrics, the twisting melody credited to Sheldon Peterson serves as a vehicle for some intense vocal gymnastics that don’t rely on singing actual words.
Show tune alert: West Side Story‘s urging to be “Cool” is precisely that, in its way, but it sure does sizzle and heat up, too, in this fervently personalized take. Open-minded fans of theatre music may find it true to the essence of the message and truly adventurous.
Kaylé Brecher grabs onto an attitude and mindset in her renditions, exploring melodies’ foundations, and then finds the path not taken and doubles down or passes the baton to the band. She often gives over much time to the musicians to create even more side trips to unpredictable territory which can be provocative and/or perplexing. Especially on a first listen, you may find yourself more impressed with the range and risk-taking in performances and trippy trappings than with the (possibly upstaged) material itself. Sounds heard include fierce guitar, lots of percussion, cameo appearances by sousaphone and piccolo; the Brecher-penned “So Complicated” (not an inappropriate description for some things here) becomes a saxophone summit bringing in four players. One of her original works, “Choices,” may test concentration and engagement since it lasts ten minutes.
Two familiar numbers have origins as French songs, and both are sung with their English lyrics. Of these, “Autumn Leaves” takes far more liberties with the melody—what’s left of it. Rather than resting on a bed of leaves, it reclines on a psychiatrist’s couch, memories more tortured, moods more complex, although the longing for the missed lover is not missing in (the very busy) action. While the singer is solely credited with all other arrangements on Bredux, here she’s co-billed on that task with the estimable pianist on this and most tracks, David Dzubinski. “Under Paris Skies” offers something sunnier and simpler and has some sway along the way.
The expression “acquired taste” may be a cliché, but it applies to this unconventional, skilled performer and the kind of soundscapes sculpted here. At their best, the results can be compelling and a welcome change of pace, even when the more abstract and daring doings make one feel like an intrigued stranger in a strange land with no compass and no map—a kind of Brecher-bred Brigadoon.