Though he’s not terribly successful, Brim Liski’s aspirations on his self-titled debut EP are admirable. Seemingly, Liski’s goal was to merge the desperate isolation (and catchiness) of bedroom pop, the subterranean menace of trip-hoppy electronica and the dreamy atmospherics of shoegaze into one frighteningly otherworldly whole. That’s certainly a description I would ordinarily find intriguing.
Unfortunately, this provocative premise is underwhelming in execution. The general idea is still a good one, and there are moments on Brim Liski where Liski approaches realizing the potential of his vision, but overall the EP suffers for Liski’s overindulgences. The synthesizers are just a little too shrill, the drums too snappy and fake, and the arrangements just a little too busy.
Skittery opener “Fight” starts things off like an angrier version of Air’s “Alpha Beta Gaga,” substituting ethereal, reverb-soaked vocals for the French duo’s playful whistling. However, where Air preferred ever-changing dynamics, instrumental diversity and irresistible melodicism, Liski allows “Fight” to stagnate, using repetitive, swelling synths to create most of the drama. Though, like much of Brim Liski, the arrangements are incredibly busy, there is not enough to sustain the listener’s interest over the course of this four-minute song.
The second song, “All the Things,” seems to suggest the EP is moving in a punchier direction, bolstered as it is by some propulsive drums. However, Liski simply follows roughly the same formula he chose for “Fight”; swelling synthesizers and distant, echo-y vocals. There is a somewhat tuneful and interesting vocoder-enhanced breakdown, but Liski wastes this one moment of vocal clarity with disposable lyrical fragments (“All the things I do, I do, I do/ All the things I know, I know, I know”). Elsewhere, Liski attempts to cover the fact that there isn’t much of an idea behind “Moving Water” by making the instruments impossible to parse, creating an amorphous haze of gauzy noises.
On a more positive note, though “Longing” suffers from much of the same problems that frequently drag Brim Liski down, Liski distinguishes this song with a clearer melodic vision and more lively arrangements. Yet Liski is back in the same exasperating hole on “An Endless Drive,” piling synthesizers and echoed vocals on top of each other in the hopes that a tune will come out.
That is what makes Brim Liski such a frustrating experience. Liski is clearly talented, and to hear him circling around a good idea so persistently without fully realizing the idea is maddening. There’s every reason to believe that he’s within an album or two of making something unique and rewarding, but for the time being, we’ll have to settle for watching him try.