The words “banjo” and “avant-garde” aren’t exactly strangers. You need think only of Eugene Chadbourne and Mark Growden’s uses of the rustic instrument in distinctively mind-bending contexts. Add the phrase “power trio,” however, and you have something entirely other.

listen_upTo wit, this  is an aggregation fronted by Van Halen-loving, Boston Conservatory-trained Brooklyn underground stalwart Brandon Seabrook on six- and four-string banjo as well as guitar, accompanied by his baby brother Jared on drums and Tom Blancarte on bass. The trio takes their name from a New Hampshire nuclear power plant, and their jams have that kind of volatile energy.

Opening salvo “Peter Dennis Blanford Townshend” is named in honor of the Who’s mastermind, originally a banjo player himself, and it sounds for all the world like a drum line fundamentals competition colliding with a relentlessly fast-forwarding tape player before blasting off for the stratosphere. With scarcely a moment to catch your breath, the listener is then deposited on the “Ho Chi Minh Trail,” where sawing arco bass sets the stage for an obsessive-compulsively repeated banjo figure, after which the ensemble careens through tempo changes like John Zorn at his most ADD.


Seabrook and Co. go on to visit avant-rock keystones like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica (the textures in the dissonant sections of “Waltz of the Nuke Workers”) or King Crimson’s Red (the creeping sense of dread on “Occupation 1977”). “Base Load Plant Theme” ventures into the harmolodic funk territory trailblazed by Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, while “I Don’t Feel So Good” is an unexpected blast of thunderous doom metal.  Seabrook Power Plant‘s genre mashing succeeds as more than mere novelty because the musicians play so well and with so much conviction. No smirking, ironic joke, this. Cop via