Brain Flannel - Empty Set (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Brain Flannel

Empty Set (2014)

Grave Mistake / Sorry State

North Carolina's Brain F≠ (Brain Flannel apparently) are back with their second long player, picking up where Sleep Rough left off and moving the whole shebang onwards a bit. That debut album was good and on it the band created a chaotic concoction that was built around the dual vocals of Elise Anderson and guitarist Nick Goode. Empty Set is still constructed around the solid frame of the dual female/male vocals, which come across like a more relaxed version of Adrian Tunney / Daryl Gussin (Spokenest) but this time out the overall sound of the band seems more cohesive and dare I say it, more accessible.

I don't really like using the word accessible as it implies that music, art etc. needs to be user-friendly and that is far from being true, but Brain F≠ do come across as having a more structured and less noisy set of songs on Empty Set and it might be that this is a good introduction allowing new listeners to work in reverse through the band's back catalogue (albeit a small one). Saying that, there is no loss of the franticness that the band displayed on their debut as the ten songs on Empty Set race along at a fair pace, it just seems as if there are this time two hands on the steering wheel rather than just one as each track flies by but with a little more control in evidence. This sense of urgency is increased by Bobby Michaud whose drumming, and particularly his use of cymbals, guarantees a cacophonous quality that is akin to standing at the bottom of a magnificent ly large waterfall. The pounding impact of tracks like "N.A.S." and "Headaches and Vomit", adds to the sense of power that Brain F≠ brings to the table although none of the songs on the album lack the ability to deliver multiple aural blows to the solar plexus.

Anderson both sings and talks her way through songs and at times has an almost disinterested manner which I find quite alluring, whereas Goode counters the boredom with a sense of attentiveness to the songs. The duo works well together in this respect and the production/mixing for the vocals is another example of an improvement over that on Sleep Rough.

Brain F≠ have raised their game, even though there was no pressure on them to do so, by making the occasional tweaks, ones which have had quite an influence on the band's sound. It's only mid-February and I already have a pretty tasty list of contenders for this years' top album list, with Empty Set sitting nicely in the current top three.