Review – Brett William Kull – Open Skies Exploding – by Progradar

Resonant Frequency – Musical instruments make great use of resonance frequencies. The strings of stringed instruments, for instance, vibrate at their resonance frequencies when plucked or struck, and their vibrations against the surrounding air produce sound. For horns and similar instruments, the resonant frequency is actually in the column of air contained in the instrument.

I think we are all tuned into different resonant frequencies when it comes to music and maybe that’s why we like and prefer different types of music.

I’ve been through some ups and downs over the last year and I’ve always turned to certain artists for music that can lift my spirits and that cloud of negativity that may be laying over me. Many a time I’ve found myself walking home after a night with friends (and some alcohol it must be said) when a track has come on and completely changed my mood and taken me to a better place, quite euphoric at times.

It always seems to be the emotive and moving music that brings out this reaction in me, artists like Big Big Train and Abel Ganz have always resonated (see what I did there?) with me in a big way. More recently Scottish indie-folk artists along the likes of Blue Rose CodeFindlay Napier and Norrie McCulloch (review coming soon) have stepped up to the mark and delivered the music that is becoming the soundtrack of my life.

However there has been one new release that I just can’t stop listening to and really has become a must listen album of choice for the good, as well as the bad, times and that’s ‘Open Skies Exploding’ by Brett William Kull.

Brett (William) Kull is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, producer, and engineer from the United States. He is best known for being a founding member of the band Echolyn, and long standing member of Grey Eye Glances. Brett is also an adjunct college instructor sharing his love for audio engineering and sound design.

Starting on December 24th 2016, and where timings allowed, Brett started to release two songs a week from his new solo album ‘Open Skies Exploding’. Being a one-man music producing machine he produced, arranged, played, sung, recorded, mixed and mastered the whole album, except where noted on each track.

My review will go through the tracks in the order and number they were released.

The first two tracks on the album to be released were My House Is Loud and Three Walls on 24th December 2016.

As Brett explains in his accompaniment to the release, My House is Loud, includes the talents of my good friend and musical compatriot Chris Buzby. He played my Bostonian Ivers & Pond antique piano as well as my Fender Rhodes Seventy Three (not at the same time). On Drums is Jim Hines. I serendipitously met Jim during some studio session work and immediately knew I wanted to work with him on my own music.”

My House Is Loud is a bitter-sweet song, from the first note of the intro to the catchy guitar hook it is an uplifting and yet melancholy musical journey that just makes you feel like you are in the right place at the right time. Brett has one of those voices that is as smooth as velvet and has no rough edges at all. I find myself singing along and humming that addictive hook all the time. There’s a nostalgic feel to it, looking back at wonderfully happy times and how they have come full circle into the present and those memories are all that remain.

“My house is screaming in answers
My house is screaming in answers
The house is drowning in answers
The house is drowning without you

Just when I needed you most you said goodbye…”

That poignant look at the past is also central to the elegant Three Walls with its dreamlike intro and delicately strummed guitar that gives a sepia tinged look at the past through the wall-scribbled memories of a stranger from the past. The song ebbs and flows in your mind, the music like a gossamer shroud over which Brett’s thoughtful vocal is delivered.

“There’s a map that I stare at with my morning tea
The pushpins tell dusty stories
Marking great spaces between land and sea
But now only the distance between us…”

31st December 2016 saw the release of Dublin Rooftops and Hard Dying Time.

Brett’s notes state, “Dublin Rooftops came about like many of my songs – in the moments between putting the kettle on and hearing the kettle whistle. I turn my phone recorder on and “get lost” in these moments. Like all my “phone recordings” it ended up in a playlist of ideas waiting for attention. Eventually I booked a session with Jim Hines to play drums, not sure what I was going to do. I brought over three ideas to this session; this was one of them.”

Fragmented memories are at the core of Dublin Rooftops, a harder edges and more powerfully emotive track with Brett’s dynamic vocal central to the story. There’s a staccato feel to the drums and acoustic guitar, like an almost agonised cry for the memories that are lost and the plaintive vocal section that follows the chorus really makes you feel for the protagonist. The drums and bass really drive the track on and the guitar adds the required angst. Railing against a broken promise perhaps, it’s the most heartfelt and acerbic track on the album.

“Somewhere there’s a slide show
It wouldn’t play now, the device deceased, device deceased
But in a corner in my mind it plays all the time
Though only in fragmented bursting scenes

There’s a part where the rain came through the radio…”

“Hard Dying Time was initially recorded in the fall of 2012 during a free form recording session. I invited some friends over to Catapult Sound to see what would happen.  When you listen to this song (from the moment the drums come in) you are hearing how the song was played in an inceptive moment by Paul Ramsey on drums, me on electric guitar, Ray Weston on bass, and Jeremy Beck on piano. After the performance I immediately had Jacque Varsalona play acoustic guitar, I wrote the words and melodies, found the voice of the song, added the beginning section, and asked my friend Francis Dunnery to add a solo guitar… all the while not infringing on the initial feel of the song.”

With laid back and ambling intro, Hard Dying Time seems to have all the time in the world. The gentle perambulations of the musicians matched by Brett’s cultured and unhurried vocal. You sit back and relax and let the music wash over you. There’s an expansive feel to this song, in my mind I see the vastness of sun-baked prairies and a horizon that seems to be a million miles away. A song for untold millennia, for lives that seem to go on eternally, unreal and almost alien. Francis Dunnery’s solo seems to come from the very bowels of the earth yet it is as measured and nonchalant as the rest of this unruffled song.

“We’d light the rails and change the chase
We burned the house to roman glass
And shake the walls to wake the wolf
Ruminate remove the past
Into piles of hard dying time…”

Railroad Self and Punch of The Day first saw the light of day on 7th January 2017.

Railroad Self was a lingering chord progression, left over from my Last of the Curlews project. Recently I felt the need to throw it back into the coliseum of combat to finish it off. One way to enable spontaneity is to simply force yourself into a position where you need to react without planning. My friend Kevin Wiggins and I occasionally do this with great success in the realm of writing songs. We find meaning in this through our intent. Whenever we hang out, music appears where music was not. Kevin played drums to my acoustic guitar; the song happened. ‘Nuff said.”

A really jazzy song with an upbeat vibe Railroad Self could be allegorical with all sorts of hidden meanings in the lyrics. Is it exhorting you to be yourself and not pander to other people’s thoughts of who you should be? It’s a great little song with Brett’s smooth vocals and the funky drums and dancing guitar, it may be introspective in meaning but it is certainly very extrovert in delivery and it’s one of my favourites on the album.

“See how she goes away
See how she’s gone away
She’s a lonely sound and gone gone gone…”

Punch of The Day was written into existence with the help of Jeremy Beck then Francis Dunnery, (aka Big Des). The construction of this song is a bit longer than some of the other songs… but sometimes you have to work for it, or at least inject that which is not normally used.  Thinking about it, the lethal combination of Beck and Big Des has contributed to some of my personal favorites on this new album.”

One of the tracks I go back to most frequently and one that is full of emotion, Punch of The Day is a wonderfully affectionate and heartwarming song with one of the most memorable guitar hooks in it. A song of memorial it would seem, a heartfelt eulogy to a loved one perhaps, Brett gives another striking vocal performance of elegance and warmth and the music just adds layers and layers of pathos and sentiment to deliver a track that makes my heart bleed and the fragile beauty within, the solo is just a thing of wonder.

“Ride blind in your town tonight
To lean against some tide
Removing pieces of our love and longing
It feels so good and keeps you moving
Beyond the punch of the day…”

Song For Summer and Like Fading Stars – released 29th January 2017.

Song for Summer features Big Des once again on drums. Des crystallized the song for me by playing the big tom-tom groove. It immediately gave the song the rhythmic energy I was hoping for.  It is perfect! Leo Koperdraat from Fractal Mirror was kind enough to add his wonderful baritone voice for some backing vocal color.”

Song For Summer has a real singer/songwriter vibe to it, akin to Don Henley post Eagles. A song from the American heartlands about somebody escaping from a relationship but are they really escaping and are they really free? That’s what it seems to speak of to me. A repetitive rhythm from the drums is the core of the track. Brett gives a sultry vocal performance and the guitars occasionally break in to dominate proceedings for a while as the rest of the song treads water momentarily. An echoing beat holds sway as the story unfolds before you, it’s a story that will end but will it end well? Does it ever…?

“She wants to buy a world of wonder
She wants to write a song for summer
She gets to me cause I know that summer too
She gets to me cause I know that summer

I never wanted to be lovers that would call it an end…”

Like Fading Stars, features Jim Hines playing a beautifully understated groove for my song. I used my very old piano with a damper on the strings to lull the listener into the quietness of the song opening. These songs are deep and full of emotional triggers for me and I hope you can find your own meaning within them. I know I cried many times as these lines materialized into melodies. Maybe you’ll get something out of them as well.”

An almost carnival-like piano note opens Like Fading Stars, a quiet echo almost unheard in the background. Brett has a stillness and tranquility to his voice, there’s a fragile grace to every note of this dignified and graceful track. Innocence exudes from all corners, a love story that takes place up in the heavens, in the stars. I take my own personal meaning from this song, to me it is inspirational and thought-provoking and reminds me of my own journey of self-discovery.

“Me here, and you there, same fading stars
Somewhere, we were somewhere
Like same fading stars
Oh, you were somewhere like fading stars
Somehow, we were shining
Like fading stars…”

The last track, Light of Things, was released on 5th February 2017.

“The last track for this series – by unplanned motivation – is called Light of Things. It’s a good one folks. I hope you agree. The 1-2 punch of Jeremy Beck and Big Des elevated the recording you hear. Jeremy plays the perfect piano accompaniment. He added a truly unique color to this song with his piano work, as well as some powerful backing vocals that are transparent and sublime. There is nothing overwrought in this recording. It is simple and fitting for my words and melody.  I hope you find something in them; I know I have.”

A cultured and sophisticated song that just oozes warmth and bonhomie Light of Things wears its heart on its sleeve. A simple but evocative vocal and piano open the track before the drums join in and take it to another level. Brett’s voice takes the bittersweet, wistful lyrics and just lifts them to another level, things lost that will never be forgotten, looking back but not in any negative way. You get lost in this seeming personal journey as this remarkable musician opens his heart and soul to the gathered crowd. This elegantly subdued song leaves a mark on you that will never fade such is its impact.

“Now close as continents are away
The devil called at the end of your stay
As our burning time crashed to the sea
We were love that died in the air
From an arrow of secrets that you shared
Then the distance came in…”

A charming, captivating musical journey that will lead everybody on a different path ‘Open Skies Exploding’ is songwriting at its best. Uncomplicated and effortless, Brett Kull has that innate skill that the best musicians possess, the ability to make the listener forget themselves and be completely immersed in the spellbinding music that he creates. The man is a bloody genius, there’s no other word for it!

Released 24th December 2016 through 5th February 2017.

Buy ‘Open Skies Exploding’ from bandcamp