Bryan Deister – Spines of the Heart

Album rating: 7.3 – Reflections of a doomsayer.

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Photo: Bryan Deister Facebook

Bryan Deister is a multi-genre singer/songwriter who is currently attending Berklee College of Music. He released his album Spine of Heart back in December of last year.

For someone trained in multiple genres including classical, jazz, and progressive, Bryan Deister possesses the finesse in assembling a synthphony where no concrete melodic boundaries or structures exist. This form of hodgepodge is nothing new – but unlike other genre-bending artists, Deister manages to find his own sonic stamp through his darkly meditative album, Spine of the Heart. Throughout this 22-track record, he sings in stretched, howling fashion of a doomsayer who shuffles through all the existential, apocalyptic, and broody corners of our minds.

The leadoff ballad, “All That I Have,” opens in a quiet suspense where you know there is a wave of ominous tune coming, but you can’t decipher when. Deister quickly answers that dilemma by introducing a dense, ascending buzz that sweeps you off into a trance of sinisterly synths. This form of surprise synthbomb is found in “Brighter Dawn” where he begins almost in a tiptoeing fashion only to dash your ears with climactic waves. He fluctuates between extreme soundscapes in “Approaching” where he begins in an almost muted fashion before cascading us with shuddering beats.

This form of unpredictability is omnipresent – you encounter it in the form of rhythmic volume or trajectory. “Today” starts with slink piano chords that escalate to rock and end up hitting a theatrical intensity. This form of theatrical climax is present in “Nothing More,” where he opens with flanged piano taps. Similarly, “Nobody Angel” takes off from the dark pop territory and lands into the broody rock zone.

There are instances where genre becomes an absolute abstract and Deister sucks us into his vortex of kookiness. “Silent Screams” has folk/pop elements with its interlocking strings and whizzing hooks, but it seems wrong to label it as folk-pop either. While “Emily” may sound like indie rock, it also feels experimental and at the same time a breather from the album – the song’s duration is 5:21, but Deister wraps it up at 4:39 and leaves us in fainting wobbly synths for the rest. It almost feels like he is giving us a break from his maze of dazzling sonics.

While there is an ominous tone in all of the tracks, the most accented ones are “Gone” and “Come.” In the crooning chorus of “Gone” Deister explicitly bellows, “Gonna kill myself” that feels like a cry for help and at the same time hopeless impending doom. In “Come,” he breathes through a throbbing cadence that resembles the breathing pace of anxiety. This type of gloomy pattern is present in “Have You” and “The Bread” as well.

The golden moment of Spines of Heart is “Into The Sky,” an eccentric track that has a fusion of classical and electronic ornamented with the choir-fashion vocals. The multi-voiced layers inject you with an aerated feeling that launches you into an echo-drenched ambience of balmy dreamscape.

Deister does not succeed to stitch genres euphoniously all the time – there are dissonant moments like “Seven Eight” where the upbeat-attempt loses his vocal softness in favor of a more zesty one that ends up coming off too forced. “Responding Well” and “Sure” gets lost in the humdrum cadence that make the lyrics often incomprehensible and lose their depth. The melody can feel unknotted and woozy, where Deister’s crooning feels like it’s hauling you rather than hooking you.

Despite these weak moments, Deister wraps up Spines of the Heart with his outré tangle of experimental rock and dark pop with “Vacant Eyes” and “Apart of Me.” The exiting song over thirteen minutes song, but packs every genre that Deister has been hustling with throughout the album. If Deister’s goal was to give a Sparknotes version of everything he’s been doing in the past 21 tracks, “Apart Of Me” nails it with a grand bustle of beats and waltzing genres. Spines of the Heart often feels like a labyrinth where you can’t really tell what end certain song will take you, but that’s what makes it feel like fresh oxygen into your playlist. It is dark, but the novelty present makes it far more of an exhilarating journey rather than a disheartening one.

You can follow Bryan Deister on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, and his site.