Brent Puls Explores A New Sound

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 19, 2012 8:40PM

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Brent Puls has long been a staple of the Chicago musical scene, in recent years as a member of Bumpus and the founder of Grammar before leaving to pursue a solo path. That path actually took him right out of Chicago and plopped him on the coast of California. When we heard he would be in town to release and promote his first proper solo full-length, Empty Ampersands, we expected the Cali sunshine might have added a jaunty bounce to the orch-pop he had been crafting before he left. Instead it appears he avoided the sun and turned inward to put together a striking collection of surprising delicacy.

Empty Ampersands doesn't lack for instrumentation, the songs are stuffed full of sound elements, but there's an intricacy at play that creates a world on inner twilight it's easy to get lost inside of. On the title track this creates a cross between a meditation and a lullaby as delicate guitars touch and kiss each other over a sustained hum in the background. The majority of the songs follow this approach, allowing strings and flutes to float in and out as needed, and even allowing heavier drums to creep in when a lurch ahead is needed on "Better Living Through Chemistry."

We admit when we first heard the album it was a bit of a shock. There are nips and peeks at the older material of Puls' we were more familiar with, but it appears his time away from Chicago has allowed him to bring a renewed focus and fresh approach to his work.

Listen to album opener "When You Called" and tell us what you think of it.

Brent Puls plays tonight, July 19, at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln, 9 p.m., $8, 21+