Alfred Brown from Buffalo happily admits on his website that he is not a composer of music, but an inventor of sounds, which in some cases he likes to describe as music. The Seagull – A Song Cycle, his soundtrack to Anton Chekhov’s dark play The Seagull (and no, I have no intention to spoil it for you), is a collection of screeching, and in some cases unpleasant sounds which prickle the ears in good ways and bad ways. The album is essentially a noise manifesto that comes to describe the avalanche of (over-dramatic) thoughts that goes through the heads of the play’s main characters. The music is sharp and the artist’s vision uncompromising. Brown enters industrial territory in tracks such as “That Gaping Maw of Nonexistence”, but overall he doesn’t digress much from his version of a horror film soundtrack with what sounds like strings from hell adding to the nightmarish atmosphere.
The Seagull, is by no means an easy album, and a quick, shallow listen will fail to reveal what makes it an interesting piece of work. The noise gets louder and the darkness surrounds us to a point of no return. The music however isn’t like this from beginning to end. Pleasant sounds, full of innocence, become creepy memories, and while listening, one can easily imagine the cobwebs at the corners of a half-abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, a house that has surely seen better and happier days. The sharp, painful to the ears noise, gradually transforms to dark ambient static rumbles. Brown isn’t afraid to dig deep into the hole, the descent however follows a logical progression. The sound of 19th century bells, a cold Russian wind blowing, and then quiet, which not surprisingly is even more effective in producing an atmosphere of loss and despair: all of them combined and in the right doses make up for a solemn musical experience.
The Seagull is obviously not an album with catchy melodies, and it works better as an experiment/intellectual exercise,but it flows like a river between the banks of experimental, dark ambient and neoclassical music, with bits and pieces that don’t fit into either genre. And contrary to the artist’s belief, I would say it qualifies as music (at least most of the time). (John Kontos)