(Marlvina Records, digital)
Chuck Brewer is far too humble. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer unassumingly submitted the audaciously titled Hyena Dream Machine, his debut album as the Röse Parade, in the email equivalent of a plain white envelope. If only the contents matched the packaging, I might have understood why he downplayed his masterful creation.
Once I pressed play on Track 1, a face-melting slow jam called "Where You Stay At?," I realized I was listening to something truly special. Brewer, a psychotherapist, deftly sculpts an agonizing and sexy-as-hell alt-R&B style, one full of gnarly electric guitar riffs, '80s-inspired synths and futuristic atmospherics. The cherry on the decadent, whipped-cream-smothered sundae of sound is Brewer's elastic vocals. He slithers from buttery word puddles to vaulted, operatic highs.
Brewer's songs are fractured and layered. They combine a touch of Kenna's unpredictability and political leanings with Miguel's uninhibited "let's fuck" attitude, with just a dash of the Weeknd's ennui. Prince is an obvious influence, as the late singer-songwriter surely was to the aforementioned artists.
The album's liner notes begin with a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche before a quick dive into Brewer's own ruminations on structural power. Folks not used to discussing hegemony on the reg (like myself) might get a little lost, though Brewer reaches a startling truth near the end: "Mere oppressive power ... treats truth and beauty as fanciful forms to speciously and sanctimoniously play with in the abstract; the Oppressed works them as viable tools for the purposes of liberation here on Earth." Any artist from any marginalized group will likely identify with the sentiment.
Brewer's interest in power makes sense, given that he's a board member of Burlington nonprofit the Peace & Justice Center. But even more striking is his thoroughly insatiable libido. On "As I Make the Push," an industrial funk paean to the embodiment of the Black Divine, he sings of "Sucking your love ... Licking your froth ... Eating your touch" and more knee-buckling pillow talk.
On the following track, a postcoital cooldown called "Multiverse: For Perah," Brewer teeters on the edge of ecstatic oblivion. Surrounded by syncopated beats and synth bells, a chorus of drunken voices converges on the phrase "But I still love you," the "you" being a mysterious "multiverse gurl."
"Lauryn Slays Daily" recalls the reverb-soaked strains of Blood Orange. Soft hits of guitar and fantastical lyrics ("She uses beetles for lashes / Aren't they beautiful?") drive this sweet tune.
Brewer's debut simply dazzles. At 55 minutes long, Hyena Dream Machine is a dense listen full of fantastical imagery and unrestrained sexuality. (May cause horniness; listen at your own risk.)
Hyena Dream Machine is available to stream at soundcloud.com/theroseparade.