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Greensboro’s the Bronzed Chorus prepares a new record

by John Adamian

The Bronzed Chorus don’t mind a challenge, for themselves or for their audience. The band, a two-piece, is trying to explore the limits of what they can do. Guitar-drums duos are no longer rare. The Flat Duo Jets, the White Stripes, the Black Keys and lots of others have shown how effective that particular configuration can be. But Greensboro’s the Bronzed Chorus are a different kind of guitar-drums duo. Unlike those other artists, the Bronzed Chorus aren’t rooted in the blues. They’re not exactly minimalists either. The band is further distinguished by the fact that they don’t have a singer.

The band will turn 10 in 2017. They’ve been hammering together their own sound over the past decade, working to avoid sounding derivative, and yet well aware of the impossibility of escaping one’s influences.

The Bronzed Chorus is preparing its third full-length album, set for release in late summer or early fall, their first on the Doubleplusgood label out of Minnesota. And the band plays a show at The Garage in Winston-Salem on April 27.

The duo spent much of the last five years recording the new material. Adam Joyce, the guitarist, devoted some of that time keeping his playing skills in shape. Joyce, who has a fulltime day-job as a furniture maker, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and struggled with treatments and the right medication for the condition.

“It got pretty depressing,” says Joyce. But the setback didn’t necessarily color the music, which has always been both cinematic and propulsive, with drummer Hunter Allen driving compositions with doubletime sections, unexpected accents and melodic patterns on the toms. Allen’s bag of tricks goes beyond drums and cymbals though, he also uses a modified Atari 2600 that serves as a kind of synthesizer, adding digital beats and arpeggiations to the mix. With all of those elements in play, the Bronzed Chorus occupy a zone somewhere between chiptune electronica and post-rock.

Joyce’s guitar work often deploys octave pedals and other effects to create a spectrum of synthetic sounds — pivoting between ominous bass-y parts on the low strings and bell-like tones in the upper registers. His picking often creates a sort of call-and-response effect between the parts he bounces between. Add in loops and atmospheric washes, and you start to get the full-layered feel of a Bronzed Chorus song.

Joyce says he likes to experiment with making what you might call foreign sounds on his instrument.

“I’ve always been into sounds that don’t sound like guitars, which really upsets some people,” he says.

There may be only two guys playing — and they make most of their recordings with minimal overdubs — but there’s a lot going on.

The band has always been a two-piece, though Allen wasn’t the first drummer. And the duo format has remained central to the band’s approach.

“When we first started playing, we were like ‘I don’t think we really need anyone else,'” says Joyce about the decision to remain a duo. “We were expressing the ideas we wanted to express having two people. Working within those limitations helped us keep focused. It helped us push ourselves to make as much sound with two people as possible.”

The absence of other instruments and a singer allowed for the band to write compositions that deviated from standard song form, or did away with it entirely. And sometimes a drum pattern can occupy a central spot in a tune. Listen to “Pleiades” off of the band’s “The Gleaning” E.P. from 2011. The song begins with chiming trebly guitar parts, and then Allen drops in with a galloping rapid-fire triplet drum part played on the toms, something that would be at home on a speed metal record. The collision of the two moods—atmospheric and pounding—creates a dynamic tension. Embedded in a track like this are elements that might appeal to fans of King Crimson, Explosions in the Sky, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Battles, the Dodos, Philip Glass and Radiohead.

Both Joyce and Allen, both in their 30s now, grew up somewhat removed from large cities. Joyce is from Julian, in Guilford County, and Allen is from Roanoke Rapids, in Halifax County. And their experience of playing music as teenagers seems to have been characterized by quiet focus and solitude.

“We both grew up rurally, and spent a lot of time by ourselves playing music,” says Joyce. “I still live out in the woods.”

If a drums-guitar duo without any vocals is not everyone’s thing, Joyce and Allen know that there are fans who seek music like theirs that is both cerebral and highenergy at times. And Joyce senses that there is a subset of music fans who have only continued to broaden their sensibilities.

“I think people have warmed up to it,” he says. “There is an audience, luckily, that will appreciate music without lyrics.”

But, following the “you can’t please anyone else unless you first please yourself” motto, the Bronzed Chorus hasn’t been focused on anyone’s ears but their own.

“What Hunter and I are trying to do is be our own favorite band,” says Joyce. “We’re not writing for anyone else” !

JOHN ADAMIAN lives in Winston-Salem, and his writing has appeared in Wired, The Believer, Relix, Arthur, Modern Farmer, the Hartford Courant and numerous other publications.

WANNA go?

The Bronzed Chorus play The Garage, 110 W. 7th St., Winston-Salem, Wed. April 27, at 9 p.m. with 1970s Film Stock. Visit the-garage.ws or call 336-777-1127 for more information.

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