The very first thing I noticed while listening to Kehlan Philip Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s self-titled album, is that six of the seven songs start with a low-toned horn. I assume it’s a tuba–I love the tuba, and was happy to hear it lead off, the first time. Maybe even the second time. But after that it started to become predictable. I get it. As a brass ensemble, the tuba is the equivalent of your bass guitar or your bass drum, and most music starts with the bass instruments setting the tone and cadence for the tune. But still, hearing every track begin that way took some of the fire from the amazing experience I anticipated.
In no way am I saying this is a bad album. It’s not. As a matter of fact I’ll go out on a limb and say that there isn’t one bad song on the project. And even though the beginnings of the songs get a bit monotonous, the songs themselves have different flavors. For instance, “Stateville,” has a bouncy bassline, and definitely has more of an uptempo coloring, full of trumpet. On “Ancestral”–a more subdued and meditative song–the horns are more sweeping, and the tone of the song is more abstract. “Spin,” the only song that starts differently, begins with a harp, then goes into a dark and funky groove, very different than all the other songs on the album though not necessarily out of place.
So the real question is, do The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble hypnotize me? There were moments when I drifted away, sometimes due to the beauty of the music, and other times from boredom, wanting a particular song to have a drastic change or some kind of abstraction to catch me off guard. The sounds this record is able to achieve using just horns (primarily–besides the harp, I swear there’s a violin on “Ancestral,” but just for accent) is quite impressive. But I fear that HBE and their illustrious father haven’t even totally bought into the power they possess, as if they’ve created their own boundaries and limits. The album is good, but feels safe, and makes the listener hope for a next album, so they can free themselves from some of the structure and push this sound to the next level.