Brant Bjork by Brant BjorkRelease date: May 29, 2020
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
Since the demise of the legendary Kyuss, the multi-instrumentalist Brant Bjork has kept himself active over the years with stints in Fatso Jetson, Fu Manchu, Kyuss Lives, Visto Chino, a solo career, and leading the Low Desert Punk Band. The recent string of highly recommended albums – Black Power Flower, Tao of the Devil – and 2018’s Mankind Woman arguably inform Brant Bjork has been in an unstoppable purple patch of late. His last UK tour saw this reviewer witness Brant and his band put on a stoner rock masterclass at London’s Garage. For his 13th self-titled album Brant has stripped right back to, well, just himself, by recording all the instrumentation and vocals, with the help in the studio by Yosef Sanborn and the mastering skills of John McBain (Monster Magnet, Queens of the Stone Age).
Fans of the Low Desert Punk Band’s extended epic jams may initially be disappointed as the result is a stripped back organic vibe. But once ears and mind are adjusted and tuned in, then what emerges is this is the sound of Brant’s concise song-writing chops in full flow, and it has an infectious groove brought on by continuous listens. This is rock being produced through the sound of freedom and for full glorious effect one suspects this is ideal for heading out deep into a forest or the mountains, or of course a desert if you have one in-close proximity. However, before I can grab my coat and head out the door the realisation returns we are indeed in surreal lockdown times.
It is the mark of a well-written and well-made record that the sound effect is one of simplicity and space within the grooves. Uncomplicated sounding riffs which are effective by caressing you rather than trying to blast you to the other side of the room (nothing wrong with that of course, but not on this album). The way that the lead and riff of song and opening track ‘Jungle in the Sound’ and slow groove soothes as Brant croons “wanna change your pace, you’ve got to slow sound” – this is rock for a Sunday morning.
It is also evidence that Brant is in a good place as lyrical content like “bills are getting paid, got my feet back on the ground” from ‘Jungle in the Sound’ just adds to the heart-warming glow. And when he is conjuring a riff as good as the one on ‘Mary (You’re Such A Lady)’ for a delicious upbeat mellow groove, and the combination of hypnotic guitar fuzz and a straightforward sounding snare drum thump on ‘Duke Of Dynamite’, or the seductive slow-funky vibe of ‘Stardust & Diamond Eyes’ demonstrate Brant’s creative flurry is very much continuing to flow very nicely indeed.
This is an album to escape and remember the days of freedom, and hope longingly for they will hopefully once again return. Although totally contradicting that point, a song-title which visualises staying-in is ‘Cleaning Out The Ashtray’, which is the nearest Brant extends into a longer jam and longest song of the album by four seconds, reaching six minutes and thirty-five seconds. Even so, by the end of the album I do still have an urge for one heavy deep dive into an immersive epic psychedelic stoner rock freak-out, but the afore-mentioned albums are always there to scratch that itch. This time around Brant’s self-titled album brings stripped down earworm melodies and laidback vibes to your home.