The music of Brandt Brauer Frick has always maintained a playful and mischievous quality as they take their love of electronic music and work through organic means to express their appreciation. As they unshackle locked grooves by placing minimal techno into the hands of a chamber ensemble, they rework technology’s influence by allowing humanity to lead the way. The results are akin to what Steve Reich might create if he grew up in Detroit listening to Juan Atkins or Derrick May. After a pair of dazzling full-lengths, it would be easy to pigeonhole this trio for their third release. However, it’s clear from the opening track that Miami has little to do with sunny beaches and warm climates. “Miami Theme” sets the tone for the entire album, wearing dissonance like a badge of honor. As strings descend and flatulent bass tones establish an uneasy foundation, Erika Janunger’s vocals add glimmers of hope to an otherwise foreboding scenario.
“Ocean Drive (Schamane)” picks up on this energy and runs with it, building in tension and intrigue over a steady thump and a relentless barrage of staccato piano and string plucks. It’s a piece that delightfully majors in minor chords and paranoid orchestral swells, ushering the dance into off-kilter territory. “Skiffle It Up” is punchy to the point of being belligerent, assaulting the senses with clanging percussion, abrasive frequencies, and stringed instruments doubling as sirens. Between the rapidly shuffling beats and the abrupt bass splatters, it’s as if the trio is collectively channeling Tom Jenkinson when he’s in Squarepusher mode.
Miami benefits greatly from the vocal collaborations, all of them special in their own way. SA-RA member Om’Mas Keith trades one freaky universe for another on “Plastic Like Your Mother,” getting down with some sleek electronic funk peppered by occasional twinkles and his own seductive whispers and exhales. “Fantasie Mädchen” is a dark descent into industrial with beefy bass twitches, menacing piano chords, and Gudrun Gut’s sinister growl (her ties to Einstürzende Neubauten come as no surprise after hearing this one). Sonic chameleon Jamie Lidell proves to be the perfect foil for the trio on “Broken Pieces,” his soulful crooning a perfect fit for their churning rhythms. As his voice dives in and out of echoes and dub effects, acidic twitches jerk atop low-end pulses and typewriter taps, turning the piece into one of the album’s immediate standouts.
With Miami, Brandt Brauer Frick continues their evolution as a unit by using less to create more, scaling back the rigorous orchestration in order to expose a leaner songwriting process with greater chances for spontaneity. It has allowed them to get in touch with their darker side, which only increases the excitement that surrounds their music. Serving as a bridge between the classical crowd and the experimental electronic aficionados, they are the standard bearers for what’s possible when these genres intertwine with one another.