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Brian and Chris

Bay Area duo-turned-quartet Brian and Chris certainly put a premium on variety; if eclecticism were a quantifiable and traded commodity, they would be rich, rich men. Together, percussionist/programmer Brian Fraser and guitarist/stringman Chris Palmatier dabble in the so-called intelligent dance music of groundbreaking electronic artists like Mouse on Mars, Oval, and Boards of Canada, as well as those artists' American cousins, Midwestern pioneers like Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, and Labradford, who craft hybrid sounds influenced by electronic music, jazz, and movie soundtracks. In this broad mode, Brian and Chris tend towards, cool washes of sound that unfold gradually into quietly lovely climaxes. These compositions feel minimal and restrained, even as the duo throws a variety of unexpected sounds at you: chattering percussion, a folky mandolin, an unspeakably sad cello, fingerpicked acoustic guitar, and almost funky electric piano complement the programmed beats, layered guitars, and spacey effects.

But all that lovely restraint can go out the window when Brian and Chris really get cookin', as they do when guitarist/bassists Tom Petersen and Jeff Van Earwage enter the fray; before you know it, the group segues from quietly quirky atmospherics to raucous alternative cock rock guitar explosions a la The Fucking Champs! What's going on!? If you like variety and unpredictability, Brian and Chris truly deliver. Understand, though, that this isn't just variety for variety's sake. Whatever they're doing, be it hushed and unhurried or brash and ballsy, Brian and Chris do it with tremendous poise.

Brian and Chris's first self-titled album was purportedly an effort to create a musical hybrid of The Buzzcocks, Nick Drake, and John Zorn's Naked City. Their second, the mathematically titled Vectors, offers remixes from the first album, a couple of leftover tracks from the recording sessions that produced the first album, and a handful of new songs. "The Science of Vectors (Adult Contemporary Remix)" is, as the title might suggest, one of those remixes, the duties performed by Antimatter, who brings a skittering drum and bass backdrop to Brian and Chris's playful ambience. "Pristina" isn't an electronic piece at all, but a piece of lilting postmodern folk music featuring buoyant acoustic guitar plucking and the ethereal, unintelligible vocals of Jennifer Tait. Brilliant stuff. We look forward to more from these two.