LMNtlyst (pronounced ‘elementalist’ if you please), is the project of one Brandon Birchbauer, an always-busy and slightly covert Milwaukee composer and producer, who has quite the stockpile of instruments and sounds under his command to bring even more oomph to his music that ranges from jazz to hip hop and soul. His songs are crafted with smoothness, plenty of satisfying hooks and just enough pep to step outside the proverbial musical box. Birchbauer’s latest creation, oddly and appropriately titled Popcorn Earworm is a pretty sweet blast of sounds that never take themselves seriously and still come across as polished as can be. Birchbauer puts his skills officially on display on Bandcamp (share or stream the entire album) where listeners can easily dig into some of his tasty tunes. Birchbauer recently took the time to lay down the why, who and how for us.
Seems like it’s been a while since you’ve released something — was Popcorn Earworm a long time in the making?
Popcorn Earworm was a pretty quick and inspiring process. A majority of it was made within a couple months while I was laid off from work. Even though I have not released a proper album in almost two years, I have been recording a ton of music. I have albums with my groups the Lab Experiment and Blackout Sands that are nearing completion. I recorded an album with Haz Solo and Dylan Thomas that should be coming out, soon. I contributed tracks to Proe’s Be Brave, Gladiator album and have a handful of tracks in the can for another release with him. I am also always posting remixes and cover songs to my Soundcloud page. With the high quality of music being released these days, it is so easy to get lost in all of the noise. So, I find myself being extra picky with what I decide to release. Plus, I like every album to have its own unique sound, so it can take some time to formulate a new style. I feel this album represents my true sound better than any of my previous ones.
You seem like you’ve taken on quite a project with mixing in guitar, bass, melodica, toy piano glockenspiel, kalimba, ukulele, violin, squeezebox, percussion, drum machines, synthesizers, turntables and an iPhone (?!) — what inspired the instrumentation?
I have been collecting instruments and sound-makers since I was thirteen, so it’s only natural to learn how to play them and sneak them into my recordings. Each instrument I add to my arsenal is a whole different color that I can apply to the canvas. But with this vast palette of colors I have collected, it’s hard to keep things simple. If I am not careful, all these instruments can make a sonic mess. Sometimes I have to limit a song to just a few instruments so it doesn’t get out of hand.
Who are the guests on the album and what did they help with?
Since this is mainly an instrumental album, there aren’t that many guest spots. When the tracks were ninety percent done, I brought in a few of my secret weapons. The legendary DJ Madhatter, who has appeared on a couple of my previous releases, added some turntablism to take things to the next level. He can very easily put a hip hop stamp on my beats with his funky cuts.Eganomixxxxxxxx is a gifted musician that has helped me on my last handful of albums by adding violin. He is able to speak through his instrument so when I can’t seem to finish a track call on him to get my final thoughts across. Rikki and Proe helped with layering the few vocal elements to help bring the songs to life. If it wasn’t an instrumental album, they would probably have played a much bigger role.
What would you describe the sound on this particular album as?
I would describe the sound as a fun and funky instrumental blend with lots of layers, a combination of hip hop, dub electronic and funk that goes through many twists and turns that keep you on your toes. I like to call it organic beat music or groove-bap. It has a cinematic quality that can get you lost in the music, but it still can make you move your booty. Hopefully I created a sonic journey that tells a story even though there aren’t lyrics telling you what to feel.
Will you be able o play the new songs out, live? Doing anything to get the word out?
I actually just started preparing for some live shows. I have not played out that much because I find it is hard to recreated what I do in the studio. I didn’t want to go through the difficult task of forming a band, but I also didn’t want to go the DJ route, either. So I’ve been struggling to find a middle ground where I can play a majority of the instrumentation live without triggering a bunch of pre-recorded loops and sounds. With a couple instruments a drum machine, FX’s and loop pedals I feel I have found a satisfying but manageable way to perform.