Essential New Music: Brandon Seabrook’s “In The Swarm”

In The Swarm is the second album by the trio of guitarist Brandon Seabrook, drummer Gerald Cleaver and hyphenated, mononymic diddly-bow player Cooper-Moore. Their first, 2020’s Exultations, took the power-trio template and stretched it into nearly unrecognizable shapes. While Seabrook and Cleaver came ready to set jazz-rock aflame by pitching it into the cauldron of total improvisation, it was the bulbous, bass-heavy bend of Cooper-Moore’s one-stringed instrument that tilted the action toward gloriously messy funk.

More of the same would be a splendid overindulgence, but these guys understand that lightning can’t be counted on to strike twice. So, while they started from a similar place—three musicians in a room, letting it rip—they cranked the resulting sounds through a technological mangle.

Sometimes, creative mixing draws one element out of the fray, like an artfully placed funhouse mirror. On “Adrenaline Charters,” for example, Cleaver’s drums wade through the music like Godzilla stomping through a defenseless downtown. Electronic treatments further transform the action, turning drums and guitar into dense curtains of shimmering texture on “Seething Excitations.” At several turns, Seabrook parts the cosmic seas with terse runs on his banjo. Only Cooper-Moore stays the course, pulling rubbery pulses out of his home-made instrument.

The time spent in post-production may have mopped away some of the first album’s mess, but that only makes the music’s drastically alien qualities more apparent.

—Bill Meyer