in 2012, brooklyn-based composer rebecca brandt released a 14-track album called numbers & shapes. composed and orchestrated for 30+ instruments, the album is beautifully, astoundingly multi-layered. if part of the magic of music is taking the listener on a journey, brandt is a shaman. “i’m generally inspired by the people around me, who are doing some amazing things and producing all this beautiful, creative stuff,” brandt tells me of how the album came about, “i feel like i have to keep up, and that pushes me.” she might see it as keeping up, but as far as i’m concerned, she’s setting the pace. last year, brandt got together with the green village‘s greg edgell – a founding member of the now-defunct jersey-based creative studio called green villain (who, although no longer affiliated with greg or the green village, provided the imagery for this post). the concept? to rework the album with an electronic mentality; a project that would take 14 different artists over a year to create. the result? numbers & shapes: revisited.
“there were no guidelines, no expectations, and no time constraints for completion,” explains greg edgell, “process is key, and it can’t be rushed.” after listening to brandt’s original, edgell says the idea to revisit the album came up naturally. edgell’s newest venture, the green village, is a jersey-based record label founded in 2013 that emphasizes dreaming local. adhering to that philosophy, numbers & shapes: revisited‘s participators are all one-degree connections. “a big focus of what we do at green village is fixating on our (and your) round table, the ones we trust, and who can be counted on,” edgell continues, “we just want to build something with people we know and who know us the same way.” the concept of community is something that, i think, is so unique in the electronic music scene, and it’s very refreshing to see that being put to use.
“rebecca’s first record takes place in a realm of mathematically generated instrumentation.” edgell has a way with words. i suspect his inherent ability to paint exact and beautiful imagery has to do with how intensely passionate he is about music and the projects he’s working on. “it’s a pleasant marriage of phillip glass, erik satie, and some indie rock band out of omaha ne that has yet to be formed.” he’s right. it’s no wonder that the project came up the way it did, but at the same time, it’s an innovative idea; it disrupts the norm and it’s never been done before, at least not in this way. “the new record takes place inside an LCD screen where 1s and 0s communicate with a classically untrained mind,” edgell continues, “the marriage between the new and old, the tangible and the digital is what green villain, and now green village, is built on.”
“for numbers & shapes i was largely inspired by trying out different concepts of music theory, playing around with numbers, shapes and contours – hence the title,” brandt tells me. from her and greg’s explanations, you’d think that the album would sound academic, textbook, but the instrumentation is purely emotive. in the re-imagination, her sounds are deconstructed and put back together piece by piece into, at times, entirely new renditions that sound nothing like the original. with no boundaries set by either brandt or edgell, each of the 14 remixers were able to completely redefine the track they were working on. starkey‘s take on “54” balances cosmic vibrations in between bouts of more aggressive, thumping beats and basslines. tro’s version of the “the clock breaks at three” is more minimal, layering over the pretty melodies, retaining the original’s esoteric atmosphere and slowly, slowly building up into fuller beats. dakini9‘s “other places” works with brandt’s eerie melody in a single loop, grounding the track’s pace in a haunting but ethereal continuum. doctor jeep‘s rework of “the moment” retains much of brandt’s original, adapting it to his futurist garagey soundscapes. brandt describes it best: “every artist brought something truly special to their remix. some of the tracks take quite a bit from the master, so while the track is totally unique, you can still hear the original come through; and then others completely manipulated the stems (stretching, reversing, flipping, and lord knows what else) and created something new.”
“part of what was so exciting about this project is how vastly different all of the artists are,” brandt continues, “it’s been super fun and very fulfilling to hear how others reinterpreted my songs that i’ve listen to a hundred times over.” i spent most of the past week letting both versions of the album play out back-to-back, over and over until i felt i understood them both inside and out. in much the same way that reading and re-reading my writing is a process, listening to the albums was a process – pieces jump out at you at different times. you get lulled into one track and suddenly awoken by a bit of melody, the change of a beat or a particularly exotic percussion. “there was no mission to the project, just an idea that manifested itself into a well rounded unique album,” edgell concludes when i ask him what the goal was for the project, and if he thinks numbers & shapes: revisited achieved it, “we just threw it to the wind, and it fucking soared higher than we could have imagined. it just worked, and after 14 months, we can sit back and say, ‘look what we did.'”