It seems like just yesterday we were talking about the new album from Host Skull, David Bernabo’s band and one of the founding members of local record label Golden Magnet. In fact, it was less than two months ago. But Bernabo’s creativity is far from exhausted. Today, September 15th, he’s dropping a new seven-track release, Step Down Toomey, the title being a clear aside to the unpopular, unresponsive U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. The same knack for weird, compelling, experimental rock he shows in his collaborative work can be found here, too. But this time, Bernabo tackles nearly every aspect of production himself: vocals, all the instruments, writing, mixing, and mastering. Still, he seems more than up for the challenge. With this being the 21st release from his multimedia label, Ongoing Box Productions, his experience in all these aspects shines through.
He did, however, bring in one special guest: Morgan Stewart, of fellow Golden Magnet band Sleep Experiments. Her vocals appear on Step Down Toomey’s first two tracks, “The Picturesque” and, more prominently, in “Tap on the Door.” Stewart’s rich, fuller vocals pair well with Bernabo’s characteristic muted tone, and her captivating lower range gets a chance to shine (while with Sleep Experiments, she tends to lean more towards the high and passionate.)
Speaking about “Tap on the Door,” the album’s first single, Bernabo says, “The song was written as a shifting four-part harmony where four Wurlitzer electric pianos were recorded, with the intention of four voices doubling each note.” He continues, “Through the mixing phase, the arrangement was simplified, but here and there, the original four-part harmonies shine through. [And] the droning aspects were the result of flicking a piece of metal between two guitar strings, and then layering four tracks of that technique on top of each other.”
This unique attention to craft, composition, and experimentation is what makes Bernabo’s avant-rock work so distinctive. If you enjoyed Host Skull’s Destruction, or if you simply want a new, challenging (in a good way) listen, Step Down Toomey is for you. Check out the lyric video to “Tap on the Door” below, or by clicking here. The full album is now available for streaming and download at Bernabo’s Bandcamp page. And keep up with Golden Magnet on Facebook so you won’t miss any future releases.