“Forward-thinking” has always been an apt descriptor of both creative minds that make up The Reds. Rick Shaffer successfully bends two different genres into a very diggable mash-up sound that is not only rare; but arguably completely unique. The other half of The Reds equation, keyboardist Bruce Cohen also waxes and wanes through genres encompassing electro-jazz to multi-layered German electronic minimalism. Following up on his 09 solo debut, Cohen has released his follow-up, Two BC, which finds Cohen expounding upon the former with 12-tracks of sonic soundscapes that run a musical gamut from eerie to dancey.
The album opens to “Monolith” with its minimal backing drum beat, effects-laden synth undercurrent and dirge-like church organ lead. Despite being the shortest track on the album, the track offers an initial peak into Cohen’s aptitude for making multiple layers of sound find cohesion within the bounds of one track while still allowing each to stand on its own merit. “Nails” opens to club beat percussion as the eerie backing synth slowly creeps in. Again, Cohen builds this track adding purposeful layer after purposeful layer until the whole is equally as enjoyable as the sum of the parts. Clever intermittent fills round out this track. “Puzzle Piece” is an experiment in percussion with Tropicalia style bongos, slight cymbal work and period keys in the vein of Michael Mann/Jan Hammer. When the facets combine, this track is pure atmosphere. Following up with more hand percussion is the keys behemoth “In Limbo” which weighs in at just under the 6:30 mark. Here the keys take a two-fold approach in execution–first, keeping a bouncing almost Reggae beat in the background while lead keys play out the track melody. Cohen’s strange synth clicks and clanks are still present, but the lead keys take more of an instrumentation role with faint appearances of what sounds like flute at times and almost of strings at others. In keeping with the minimalist ethos, this is still a “big” song.
I’m not really sure if there is anything Cohen can’t do with a keyboard. And before you chalk that up to hyperbole, give these 12-tracks a listen (not to mention the decades of other stuff in his catalog) and bask in the exploratory limits, eerie calm and dreamy imagery he has at his fingertips. This album doesn’t speak to Cohen’s prowess at keyboards; this album showcases knowledge of the instrument’s limitations and his ability to go beyond them.
by Chris West – firstname.lastname@example.org[Rating: 3.5/5]