Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - Okayplayer

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

by Dylan Grier
7 years ago

Can I get a “HEEEEELLLLLLLLLL YEAAAAAAAAAAAHH?” Alright then. For anyone who hasn’t been in touch with their inner superhero lately, Bulletproof Brass!, the latest release from Chicago-based nonet Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, is what you need in your life right now. This 6-song EP packs more heat than Petey Pablo at an airport on 9/11. The record opens with a sample from the 80’s action flick “The Last Starfighter,” with stern orders: “Climb into the gunnery chair … I’m moving you into launch position.” You know what happens next.

On this outing, the assault of HBE’s horn section is somewhat of a departure for the group. There seems to be more focus on the ‘ensemble’ lines, and less on intricate melodies and virtuosic playing. This works in the group’s favor; the album never even comes close to hitting that lull that so many instrumental albums fall into headfirst. The combination of samples, chants, and straight hyping makes the record more engaging without getting in the way of the main attraction: the brass.

In all of its ass-kicking glory, Bulletproof Brass! somehow manages, at the same time, to exist in the realm of beauty and elegance. The lush horn lines play off of each other so effortlessly, creating a sense of grandness. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Black Boy,” which features some heartfelt storytellin’ over a drum-less backdrop. The track is one of many highlights on the record, and showcases the raw power of HBE’s sound.

Ultimately, the EP is an easily accessible affair and should garner a wider listening audience for the group. Despite this, longtime fans should find comfort in the fact that HBE is evidently intent on evolving and challenging themselves and their followers with each move they make.

-Dylan Grier

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