It’s time for celebration today, as Brendan Byrnes has just released a follow up to his album Micropangaea. Titled Neutral Paradise, it is every bit the stunning journey that its predecessor was. Brendan continues his exploration of xenharmonic avant-rock while developing his instantly recognisable and intense sound further.
Neutral Paradise features a variety of songs and instrumentals that are inspired by the “hybrid landscapes, cultures, energy, and complicated beauty” of Los Angeles. Most of the pop-friendly tracks come at the beginning of the album, with more exploratory works coming in later.
The gradual shift here from the familiar to the new is genius, as it gives the ear time to adjust. If you are just discovering microtonal/xenharmonic music for the first time, it can be quite an ear-bender. The melodies are novel and have an aesthetic that can feel strange at first. But Brendan makes it work, guiding you along with his vocals and the driving rhythms. It all makes musical sense when you listen to it. So when that more exploratory “Side B” comes in, you are all the more ready for it.
For me, the highlight of this record is the 6th track, Paradise. It’s a super dreamy song backed by steady rock groove, yet still manages to ramp up a few times to this powerful chorus that shimmers and glitters with sweeping synth lines and Brendan’s echoing falsetto. Despite my love for this song in particular, I have a feeling that others will take their own favourites, because there are so many strong songs on the album.
You can get Neutral Paradise now from Brendan Byrnes’ Bandcamp, on a pay-what-you-like basis. It will be available on Spotify, iTunes and the other big music platforms within the next couple of weeks.
What makes me hopeful for the future of microtonal music, is that people like Brendan are popping up with increasing frequency. They know how to write a song that is listener-friendly, a song that makes you feel something when you hear it. They know how to explore xenharmonic territory where few people are treading. They are keen to present their music in the highest quality way possible. And they know how to put all these things together into one package that everyone can enjoy. It’s takes a wide range of skills and a great deal of time to make all this come together, so it’s little surprise that we had to wait 4 years since Brendan’s last solo album.
So the next time somebody says “microtonal music is just out-of-tune, we use 12-equal for a reason, let’s stick to our traditions”, you just point them over to Brendan Byrnes and have their world turned upside down.