There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it anecdote tucked into one of the many fine documentaries about seminal 20th Century artist Jean- Michel Basquiat regarding the habits of his studio practice. As we watch inspiring footage of Basquiat darting from one piece to the next with rapid-fire brush strokes, a friend or gallerist in a voice over says that it was not unusual for Basquiat to be working on several paintings in the same moment as several radio stations and televisions played in the background. Not much more time is spent on the anecdote, but it feels like a skeleton key into Basquiat’s endlessly alluring, neo- expressionist work.
And while Bryan Devendorf’s solo curio ‘Royal Green’ doesn’t possess the only-in-New York vibe of Basquiat’s work, there is something shared in its many-channels-open style of creation. Satellite signals, strange voices from lost television documentaries and radio operas are all woven into its fabric — like it’s using these endless tides of media and information to unlock the subconscious. Even its covers — Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, The National (with a nice big wink), The Beatles — are like stunning, albeit satanic takes on hymns, or like American standards almost dragged into the underworld. Like the best of Spacemen 3, Sparklehorse or massively underrated San Fran band Skygreen Leopards — the music makes you queasy in one movement and lulls you into blissmode in the next. It’s the very edge of outsider pop songwriting.
For all the amphitheaters and festival fields Devendorf has played to over his career, ‘Royal Green’ almost feels like an un-learning and a newfound love of homemade/found/fractured sounds — and how, if collaged just so, detritus can become stunningly gorgeous and surreal. And not without hooks. Look no further than “Frosty” which could be Little Billy Corgan’s decayed demo tape from just before the Smashing Pumpkins appeared on the scene. And the unspooling, slightly unglued dream-pop of “Breaking the River” is as rapturous as it is sinister. And that’s probably where Devendorf wants it.
1/ If Not For You
2/ Breaking The River
3/ Baby, You’re A Rich Man
4/ What If You’re The Sick Passenger?
6/ Halo Chagrin