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Ordinary Brainwash: Me 2.0

Polish composer/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rafał Żak is an amazing artist, and his one-man project, Ordinary Brainwash, is pretty fascinating. On his third LP, Me 2.0, he blends industrial progressive rock with exceptional songwriting and affective arrangements to create a stellar package. Really, his compositions feel more impassioned and intriguing that a lot of new music written by full bands.

The follow-up to his debut, Disorder in my Head, and sophomore release, Labeled Out Loud, Me 2.0 continues to house his accessible blend of "beautiful melodies, original lyrics and startling compositions." Truthfully, there's a lot of Riverside and Lunatic Soul (two other Polish outfits) here, so it goes without saying that the mastermind behind those groups, Mariusz Duda, is likely a strong influence here. While Ordinary Brainwash isn't on the same level as those groups in any area, Żak still fills Me 2.0 with plenty of emotion and a brilliant contrast between lightness and darkness. Also, while such direct similarities are arguably never good, Duda's work is so unique that the mere fact that Żak is able to craft music so akin to it is remarkable.

The album begins with deadened staccato strings, fancy yet subtle syncopation, bells, and Żak's morbid voice. Although he doesn't possess much range, his melody and harmonies still manager to conjure up a remarkable kind of overwhelming desolation. The way the music builds to a progressive metal frenzy as the song progresses is wonderful too; If Steven Wilson was singing on it, you'd swear it was a lost track from Porcupine Tree's Deadwing. Similarly, "Unbirthday" evolves into a complex jam full of soaring guitar solos, beautiful flute complements, and lush strings. While it's all housed in a grayish coating, the track is still a powerful display of dynamics and musicianship.

Without a doubt, the best song on Me 2.0 is "Stay Foolish." Utilizing more invigorating strings, horns, percussion, and guitar, the song is wonderfully accessible and affective. Melodically, it's the most involving track by far, and the way the central piano motif keeps repeating and inciting anticipation makes the song exponentially more poignant and gorgeous. If Żak were a better singer (a limitation he no doubt acknowledges), the track would be a masterpiece. The remaining tracks four songs are almost equally marvelous, too, as they also incorporate a wide array of instruments and varying intensity to help Żak pour his heart out in musical form.

Me 2.0 is an exceptional record, especially considering that it's the work of one man in his mid-twenties. He masterfully represents multifaceted sentiments with ingenious blends of harshness and tranquility; his instrumentation is superb and his vision is precise. While his sound may be a bit familiar to fans of other Polish progressive artists, it isn't common, and that's what allows it to remain special. Żak represents what true artistry should be: an unflinching determination to see your singular calling come to fruition. His musical world isn't especially happy or colorful, but it is profound and touching, and I for one hope that Ordinary Brainwash has a long and increasingly popular and well-funded future.

Track Listing
1. Outdated (6:08)
2. Me 2.0 (4:48)
3. Unbirthday (7:41)
4. Stay Foolish (5:48)
5. Don't Look Back (3:40)
6. Homesick (6:20)
7. Critical Error (6:21)
8. Something New (6:20)

Added: August 9th 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1394
Language: english

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