The Hollow Down By The Flare is the debut album by London based dynamic duo Burnt Pixels. It is a remarkable piece of work hand crafted over a year's time by Ian Brzozowski and Ben Hooper friends for 15 years whose paths have musically crossed in various bands the most notable being 23 Frames. You could call these songs bedroom recordings but you wouldn't know it listening to the 13 tracks that stylistically feels cohesive despite displaying a wide array of flavors. All of them are art pieces painted with layers of guitar sounds over solid bass and drum foundations. Whether it be sustained sounds or staccato licks or pearly rhythm embellishments it is Ian's and Ben's ability to strike the right balance that makes this album so damn captivating. The songs overall feel like a blend of noise and art rock pushed through various filters resulting in a rich tapestry of sounds.
Home recording and producing can be a daunting task. The ability to realize your own vision without a studio clock ticking or producer over your shoulder can be a blessing or a curse depending on your work ethic and ability to render the creative details that you want. Ian who penned all the songs, sang lead, played all the lead lines and 50% of the bass parts and Ben who played drums (the only instrument not played in the proverbial bedroom) 50% of the bass parts and added guitar and backing vocals managed to not lose sight of the end game. I take special pleasure in a project like this that has so much of the artists in the tracks. I have heard all too often true creative bright lights dulled by record producers. Now, onto some of the songs.
Joy Is Sinister is darkly cool with a running beat. The edgy guitar lines makes me think of a spy caper or a government gone bad. The title track The Hollow Down By The Flare is searingly wistful with sparkling guitar and sustain lifting you up on a mournful plane. Between The Devil and A Rock with an upfront sand paper-ish effect and proggy rock pattern has a touch of funk indie rock. Polite Fiction is cagey with a shimmery tropical punk gate and beautiful guitar work and vocal melodies. Nina Kulagina feels like post rock 80's pushed through a 60's Mersey Beat Mod filter and then pushed through a 70's psych rock filter. Interestingly New Colour with it's sense of wanderlust of train hopping and country sides (at least in my brain) had me thinking, oddly enough, of Van Morrison not in sound but emotional tone. Such a cool chill track.
Another surprisingly chill track is Vertical Achipelagos that has that same sense of movement propelled by acoustic guitars and dancing sounds with sweet melodies and (in my mind) I was cutting up small waves in the fog. As I mentioned before all these songs are Ian and Ben. One beautiful exception is Jane Ritchie's backing vocal performance on A Lie To Tell The Truth a dreamy affair that made me think of the band Ride although this veers a bit more abstract. Burnt Pixels display another side on The London Medicine which to me somewhere in the tones feels like Southern Goth meets 90's grunge in that drug laden Stone Temple Pilots way. Psychoplasmics is very cool art rock with swelling majesty in the vocal melodies that suggested a dramatic theatricality to the band. It could be the opening to an art rock opera.
Between A Hard Place and The Deep Blue Sea opens with what I think is a well known vintage broadcast TV key note and then transitions into Ian's vocals through a tinny filter like a radio transmission or old style phone. All the while there is dreamy guitar playing and evocative smooth bass runs and sustain notes. It is all dreamy and a bit surreal. It is Burnt Pixels falling down the rabbit hole. I will gladly follow them on the unique personal journeys they create.
Ian Brzozowski says that the title "The Hollow Down By The Flare" comes from Charles Dickens' last novel Our Mutual Friend (1864-65) referencing the characters Charley and Lizzie Hexam who cannot read so they stare into the fireplace for inspiration to inject into their stories. Ian expands:
"In the album and song, it's a metaphor for the creative spark, the source and nature of creative inspiration and expression. The album has a general theme of finding your way back to art and inspiration after becoming jaded by a lack of success, and realizing that it doesn't matter, that you need to do it for your own soul instead - that you thrive on it."
It sounds like Ian and Burnt Pixels are making music for the right reasons and we get to revel and benefit from them crafting such amazing songs.