Song debut: Brain Grimmer, "It's Over Now"

The Madison producer/multi-instrumentalist celebrates a new release this Saturday at Audio for the Arts.

Detail from the cover art of I, Nefarious.

Detail from the cover art of I, Nefarious.

Brian Grimm’s forthcoming new release under his Brain Grimmer hip-hop production moniker, I, Nefarious, is a product of Grimm’s tendency to dive into all manner of outlandish collaborations and esoteric wormholes. The Madison-based multi-instrumentalist (cello, bass, an assortment of Chinese stringed instruments including the pipa and the guzheng) has played in bands including Lovely Socialite, Brennan Connors & Stray Passage, and Julian Lynch’s live band. Brain Grimmer channels his wide-ranging interests, from jazz to experimental sound art, with the additional aid of a sampler and Ableton Live software.

Grimm thinks of I, Nefarious as more of a compilation than an album because it draws on a bunch of projects he’s participated in over the past few years. The Gil Scott-Heron remix “Vildgolia (Deaf, Dumb, And Blind)” was previously released on a 2014 project led by Indianapolis R&B singer Bashiri Asad. "Gauloises?... (Garçon Slow Jam)” and "WO IS DEIN BRUDER!?!?” come from Grimm’s original score for the 2014 Strollers Theatre production of The Baltimore Waltz. Grimm originally made “Babushka” for the 2014 compilation Running Up That Hill: Kate Bush Covers for Reproductive Rights.

Amid all this, he’s still interested in the more familiar elements of hip-hop production, especially sampling and re-contextualizing jazz. On “It’s Over Now,” Grimm twists together melodies from Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” John Coltrane’s “Syeeda’s Song Flute,” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night In Tunisia.” He makes phrases (not actually sampled from recordings, but pplayed with MIDI notes) from one composition flow deflty into the next, but gives the song as a whole a woozy, tottering feel, with Grimm’s own funky fretless bass holding it together.

Grimm originally set out to create a serious interpretation of “Well You Needn’t,” but as he worked at it, elements of the other two tunes began to seep in. "They all have these dope half-step chord progressions which are great for hip hop, so I wanted to have some fun with that.” he says. "I programmed in a drum part and recorded a bunch of bass variations over the changes on my fretless bass. I was originally going play the melody cello and solo like a madman, but what actually happened was this goofy woodwinds band which I performed using my MIDI controller. So I still played the melody, but it turned sideways. There was now this sock-puppet band all hopped up on the jazz playing their woodwinds. So, I just accepted the silly, giggled, and added an impossible-to-play conga solo.”

Give the track a listen here. Grimm will celebrate the new release with a show this Saturday at Audio for the Arts. Madison band Bell Monks will also be celebrating their new EP, Big Bay, at that show.