Album Review: The Phineas Incarnation – Liquid Karma

The Phineas Incarnation

Liquid Karma

Liquid Karma is the work of Phineas Brady, a 17 year old drummer from Iowa City. He wasn’t even born when the genre known as IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) began gaining listeners. Brady’s chief inspiration is the restless, jackhammer rush of artists like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, but instead of intricately programmed drums, The Phineas Incarnation is built around Brady’s live drumming, combined with software synthesizers.

Equally as important to Brady is the prog-rock and jazz fusion of the 1970s. He loves odd meters, reminiscent of Billy Cobham’s work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. There’s also echoes of Todd Rundgren’s most over-the-top prog impulses, and Yes’ Tales Of Topographic Oceans.

Like Topographic Oceans the song titles on Liquid Karma reach for an unsupportable profundity. From “Void: Emergence” to “Truth: I, Infinity” Brady seeks to tell the story of the entire universe in a little more than an hour. That would be ridiculous — well, it is ridiculous — if Brady didn’t have a remarkable mastery of harmony and rhythm.

“Life: The Divine Paradox” begins with stutter-stop bass synth, and morphs through several disparate sections alternating between manic arpeggiation and sustained chords. “Life: Birth Of Omniscience,” the central section, is built on a dense rising chord sequence and stuttering drum rhythms. No one thing lasts long before moving on to other intricate vignettes.

Liquid Karma’s strength, the sheer volume of ideas, is also its biggest weakness. Brady packs so much into each track that the transitions can feel arbitrary. There’s about 10 albums worth of concepts here.

Brady flings about themes and rhythms like confetti, and its excesses, both musical and thematic, may be the point. It’s less about “Truth: Ego Death” and more about going as far as possible. It’s the same impulse that pushes a rapper to deliver the most extreme rhyme, or a punk band to be louder and snottier than anyone else. In the future, he may become a more disciplined composer — after he’s googled “Economy of Means” maybe — but Liquid Karma is a youthful indiscretion Brady can be proud of.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 200.

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