Guillermo E. Brown & BiLLLL$
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Guillermo E. Brown & BiLLLL$

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"Guillermo E. Brown's Black Dreams 1.0"

For those familiar with Guillermo E. Brown only as the drummer for the David S. Ware Quartet, Black Dreams 1.0 will surprise. In the quartet, Brown is a part of the whole. On this album his multiple influences and ideas shine through: Jungle, De La Soul, his grandfather’s jazz drumming, his mother’s ethnomusicology career, Alvin Lucier, musical theater, dance, the global flow of economy and culture. For Brown, eclecticism is not a choice but a built-in feature. �I am a human sampler,� he declares, �I traverse traditional cultural and social boundaries.�

On his debut solo record, the Blue Series’ Soul at the Hands of the Machine, Brown piled on the cross-cultural references, as he and his collaborators filled the music to the point of overflow. Black Dreams 1.0, released on Brown’s Melanine Harmonique Recordings, features only Brown, all of the sounds made by his voice, instruments, electronics and samples. Coupled with Brown’s rhetoric, the album is less music and more conceptual sonic art.

He produced the record with a fellowship from Harvestworks, an institute promoting digital media artwork. Using the music software Max/MSP, he gives physical reality to his view of culture as a web of cross-breeding ideas. While globalized dialogue is not an original concept, Brown’s globe is not a utopia in sound, but a restless and uncertain one, charged with digitized energy The studio is a perfect setting for Brown, a space where his diverse influences can speak through him. With 23 tracks clocking in at over 50 minutes, the album hurries through a dizzying procession of (maybe one too many) musical sketches, echoing at times the neurotic jump-cuts of De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising.

The second half of the album contains a kind of tone-surfing suite. Over seven pieces, each rarely longer than 90 seconds, Brown compresses a century of electronic timbres: tinny monophonic cell-phone bleeping, manic industrial crunching, itchy digital throbbing, static sludgy dub, mechanical whirring. The menagerie culminates in �Mouth Que,� in which Brown sucks, breathes and pops a web of processed vocalizations – the human spirit mated with electronics.

Vocal experiments appear elsewhere. Brown sings on �Octaroon� over a wash of glitchy static, electro beats and warbling bass - Lee Perry and Eric B. smothering a soul singer with their mixing consoles. On �Bible� what starts as dark Miles-funk devolves into a stereo-panned maze of shouted vowels.

Much high-concept music - like a lot of musique concrète - is interesting for one or two listenings, the experience more intellectual than visceral. But Brown never forgets he is a drummer, and injects the tracks with enough beats to latch onto. He lays down a spare, snare-kick-kick-snare groove on �Columbia/Oh,� adds a gauzy vocalized �Oh� for accents, buries in the mix a needling string riff (a zither, perhaps?) and grounds the whole mess with a massive fluttering bass tone, generating a banging hip hop drone.

By Matthew Wuethrich -

"Guillermo E. Brown Soul At The Hands Of The Machine"

Guillermo E. Brown is a percussionist who has recorded with artists as diverse as Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell, and Spring Heel Jack. For his first release as a leader, he has assembled an impressive roster of talent from both the jazz and electronic worlds, including reed players Daniel Carter and Andre Vida, guitarist Morgan Michael Craft, turntablist Clay Holley and vocalist Latasha Natasha Diggs. Soul... is an intriguing fusion of free improvisation, funk, and hip-hop; tracks such as "AnikuRock" and "More & More" bring to mind Miles Davis' dense, roiling jazz-rock experiments of the seventies, thanks to Craft's wah-wah guitar and Carter's bass clarinet. Meanwhile, "Electro.Prayer.1" sounds like what would happen if computers were taught to improvise.

Fans of "smooth jazz" may be disappointed (or enlightened) by the dark, sometimes turbulent music to be found here. Throughout the entire album, Brown's drumming is nimble, inventive, and a powerful uniting factor; rather than place himself in the spotlight as a player, he prefers to lay back and blend in with the ensemble (though he does show off some monstrous chops on "Outside Looking In"). Soul... is part of Thirsty Ear's "Blue Series", a group of albums that hopes to bring together "many languages in a way that will hopefully challenge, probe, excite, and perhaps even anger listeners as we try to strip away conventions with a new convention." If all of their releases are as rewarding as Soul..., they should have no trouble in achieving their goal.

RECOMMENDED TRACKS: "If We Can Ever Find A Way", "AnikuRock", "More & More"

- Peter J. MacDonald, CFMH Radio, Saint John, NB

By Peter J. MacDonald
May 29, 2002 -

"Guillermo E. Brown featuring BiLLLL$ & Gordon Voidwell"

Shunning conventional rhythm, harmony, and presentation, tonight's artists — Brooklyn avant-jazzman Guillermo E. Brown and protégé-turned-partner Gordon Voidwell — should impress both neo-soul newbies and urban-vogue veterans alike. Standing behind a laboratory of synthesizers and drum machines, wizard-of-the-choir Voidwell croons R&B melodies with all the pent-up emotion of a fresh-to-death rap geek in the throes of his quarter-life crisis. Next, the spotlight moves to Brown, whose multi-layered narratives of experimental electro-hop, percussion, and visuals transports audiences through the rainbow-colored stage into a new world: a super-stylized, sonic slip 'n slide, with a little street hustle on the side.

– Chloe Leichman -


StudioSound invites musicians, producers and musical innovators to create original compositions inspired by the works on view. For this season’s installment of StudioSound, Guillermo E. Brown has created crack unicorns, an original piece in direct dialogue with the Museum-wide exhibition Collected. Mimicking the exhibition’s organization and collective curatorial vision, Brown’s piece is divided into twelve sections, each addressing a different era or aspect of the presented works. Interested in both illuminating and tapping into the works themselves, he is also engaged in assisting viewers in making the (literal and figurative) switch from street to gallery. Sonically filling the museum’s lobby, crack unicorns ushers viewers into the Museum and prepares them for the diversity and breadth of the permanent collection. Adding another layer to his “wild sounds that activate pictures inside other humans,� crack unicorns is a unique and distinctive aural experience. -


Guillermo E. Brown "Soul at The Hands of the Machine"
Guillermo E. Brown "Black Dreams 1.0"
Guillermo E. Brown "Handeheld"
Guillermo E. Brown "Shuffle Mode"
Guillermo E. Brown "Crack Unicorns"
The Beat Kids "Open Rhythm System"



Guillermo Brown and his godfather, James, share more than a surname. A groove expert lauded by Billboard magazine for his counterpoint polyrhythms� and funky breaks, Guillermo E. Brown, the former Wesleyan University music student, swaggers to the beat of his own drum. As with James, this transcends music. Rather, it is a mode of thinking - one that combines cut-up imagery with bootyshaking soundscapes, diverse and familiar. It’s a mode that doubles as Guillermo’s latest album title, Shuffle Mode. After a decade’s work within the confounding paradigms of free jazz, experimental hip hop, new world music, art rock, and indie electronica, Brown bounds for transformation. Informed, in part, by his past partners/collaborators including David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Dave Burrell, Anti-Pop Consortium, El P, Spring Heel Jack, Carl Hancock Rux, George Lewis, Vernon Reid, & DJ Logic among others, Guillermo E. Brown has earned his stripes and omni rhythmic identity at once. Off the drum throne, Brown remains a futuristic and theatrical force. Acting, writing, and singing in his one-man theatre piece, Robeson In Space, co-producing in Mike Ladd’s Negrophilia, vocalizing and handling electro-percussion duties in Vijay Iyer’s Still Life with Commentator at BAM, twiddling knobs with Matthew Shipp in Telephone Popcorn and designing twisted beatscapes for Grisha Coleman’s echo::system; these are some of the duties managed by Brown, the non-drummer. The multi-talented Brown has even moved with best of them in Marlies Yearby’s Movin Spirits Dance Theatre and Bill T. Jones’ The Fela Kuti Project. Brown’s phonographic breadth can be heard on over 30 recordings including his own albums Soul at the Hands of the Machine, The Beat Kids' Open Rhythm System, Black Dreams 1.0, …Is Arturo Klauft, and Handeheld. BiLLLL$ is an outstanding new musical project that sees Guillermo sharing duties with William Johnson (aka Gordon Voidwell) hence the 4 L's of the band name. As enticing as as a risk free trip to inner-outerspace, BiLLLL$ cast Brown and his cohorts Johnson and Cochemea Gastelum (aka Johnnny Arrow) in the director's chair. Here in the BiLLLL$ dimension expect absolute supreme dopeness. In addition to Shuffle Mode and BiLLLL$, Brown looks forward to releasing The Beat Kids' 2nd release Sound Magazine, continuing work on his ensemble performance piece Syrup, The Cut Up Quintet, and Breuklen Tek Orchestra. Brown’s version for a better tomorrow includes dealing dub to teens in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, better living through arts and literacy to little ones in the Lower East Side, workshopping with Italian drummers & beatmaking with OH middle schoolers & thinktanking/critiquing students in the Clive Davis Dept. of Recorded Music and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.