In Rotation: Bryan Deister’s “Spines of the Heart”

by Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)

As dispirited as Bryan Deister’s piano seems, his electronic keystrokes articulate a seemingly contradictive vitality found in lonesomeness. Fans of Jeff Buckley’s warble and Sufjan Stevens multi-instrumental sprawl will feel right at home on Deister’s Spines of the Heart. Though critics have largely deemed the album an experimental foray into alternative rock fusion, Deister’s classical music training combined with his low fidelity to a single music genre  are more baroque pop than anything else.

Loneliness brews dark on this album. Deister’s synth piano often sets the tone upon which his tastefully mixed falsetto melodies are constructed. The desolate track, “Have You,” opens with enigmatic piano (reminiscent of the harpsichord fundamental to baroque pop) chords and a light polyrhythmic snare counterpoint — giving the song a spacey yet weighted intrigue. Deister’s tantalizing falsetto blends well with the melodic dynamism of his disparate keys. The lead single, “Into the Sky,” is a wonderful amalgam of polyrhythmic mystique and his own eerie layered vocals. Deister bounces up and down that pentatonic scale on the record and warbles transcendence in quartet harmonic. Though, at times, the album sounds a bit too blunt with its sadness. The refrain, “I’m gonna kill myself” on the disturbing cut, “Gone” is one of few examples where the songwriting leaves much to be desired. With such high-level mixing/mastering skill, the next step for Deister must involve infusing more subtlety in his lyricism.

 

Spines of the Heart is a looooong double-album that requires some self-care breaks. The album’s agony can become overwhelming especially on the backend where the droning ballads reveal too much of the artists’ formula — piano, sparse percussion, vocal delirium each capitulating to an instrumental frenzy. Deister’s mixing does enough to fill out the lyrical cavities. The album can feel sometimes beyond the listener, especially when Deister is reaching for higher planes of consciousness, “God kill me with your iron fist” (Brighter Dawn). But when Deister is hot, his distorted, detached vocals are richly textured and the brooding sense of loneliness is truly felt. He is “standing at your door” (Wait) ready for you to join him in the courageous reckoning with solitude.

Listen to Spines of the Heart here.

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