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Certain Molecules



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Larry Hirshberg is good at making albums with pretty and unnerving soundscapes. For Certain Molecules, his project with versatile percussionist Brandon Zimmer, he’s created yet another oddball experimental album. It’s mostly instrumental, but Hirshberg has an ear for telling a story through gossamer melodies, electronica and free jazz elements, which he invades with an avant garde touch that keeps the songs from feeling too safe. This is not music for meditation or holiday family gatherings.

On one song, piano chords ring like ominous church bells. The fuzzed-out synth evokes a record playing backwards in fits and starts. Partway through, we’re cradled in warm guitar strums, until the melody begins to distort like the preface to a horror movie.


The album has some narration. On “The Hit Single,” Hirshberg tells a short story that feels straight out of a James Joyce passage. “There was a headlight and there was a horn,” he says. “When the train passed it was felt in the feet of the people nearby. Birds flew up and away, circled for a while then landed and resumed their business.” You’re left wanting more from this mysterious world.


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