by JB Hyppolite and Len Lear
Chestnut Hill musician (singer/guitarist/drummer/lyricist) George Korein, 31, whose band, George Korein and the Spleen, has just released its latest album, “Full Of Song,” and who has performed at numerous clubs around the city, is undoubtedly the first person who would admit that the music on his previous albums — “Brain Problems” and “Condition of Air” with the Spleen and “Another Corpse,” “Too Many Days,” “Somewhere on the Internet,” etc., by himself — is not exactly middle-of-the-road or accessible to most listeners. In fact, it is way at the far end of the road.
One music critic even described his music as “ambience, noise, texture, distortion, scales derived from overtones, massed fretless basses playing false black metal, buzzing cellos, squawking clarinet loops, a blast beat … from Dada-istic post-classical noise over serial minimalism for a techno age and ending more organically although never really melodically … ”
Another critic has written that George has “combined hyper-theatrics, improvisation, dark comedy monologues, avant-metal, experimental recording and absurdist lyrics that poke and joke at every crack and crevasse of the human condition.”
George’s “unlimited sonic expression” will never be considered mainstream and will never be played on top-40 radio stations (or possibly any other radio stations), but then again, many musicians and other artists now considered geniuses were regarded as outrageous, offensive and worse when their work first appeared on the scene, e.g., Picasso, Proust, Stravinsky, James Joyce, et al.
But George’s latest album, “Full of Song,” is a mix of solid instrumentation and the Chestnut Hiller’s closest attempt to appeal to the ordinary music buff. “This one’s more sonically unified,” he told the Local recently. “There is a lyrical theme involving communication, self expression and some of the humor and absurdity of trying to assert individuality as one of seven billion humans and trying to find connection with an audience.”
Some of the key songs in “Full of Song” include what George considers the “ballads,” “I’m Not Me” and “Masters of Love,” both of which incorporate Korein’s unique singing style, which he describes as “half spoken … I think people, including me, would probably not say that making pretty music is my strong suit. But I feel like I managed to get ‘I’m Not Me’ and ‘Masters of Love’ to be pretty with strong help from Matt Angle, and in the case of ‘I’m Not Me,’ Dan Blacksberg. When you do something new and you feel like it worked, that’s extra satisfying … ‘I’m Not Me’ is about putting forth the energy to assert an identity.”
While George is the mind behind the musical madness, he had a team of talented musicians who helped put this latest album together. Matt Engle’s upright bass played an intricate part in the making of the album. Other contributors included Nick Millevoi (lead guitar), Ricardo Lagomasino (drums) and GK (synthesizers). Vocals, keys, upright bass and trombone were recorded by Barry Knob at Retro City in Germantown.
“I like to do different things all the time,” George explained in an earlier interview. “I realize that’s not good for branding, promotion and recognition. It can actually be criticized as wishy-washy or dilettantish. A lot of people always do the same thing or refine the one idea. That can be cool, but I don’t know how they don’t get distracted. I have too many ideas to just bear down on one for a whole career.”
Unlike many full-time musicians who got an early start making music, George admits “I was less musical than a lot of kids until I was 11 and needed a hobby more respectable than ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ and video games. My older brother said if I learned bass then with his friend, we could be a power trio. Learning to play definitely got me more into music. My dad played me Eno, and my mom played me David Bowie, and then I heard Primus and King Crimson. I was also influenced by Peter Gabriel.”
Every musician who has been playing gigs for a while has had memorable experiences. Perhaps George’s most memorable involved “a guy who hired me to act in his short film on the basis that my performance was ‘fearless’ and ‘aggressively amateurish’ and that it would be easy to get me to do silly stuff in front of a camera. We went out to shoot where the deer overpopulate with his film school sister and his dragged-along-to carry-the-boom-mic sister and this Indian cameraman … I then found out that where there are too many deer, there are too many ticks — all over me!”
George attended Friends Select High School and spent some time at the University of the Arts. His wife, Liz Bot, is an on-air personality for WPRB’s 103.3 FM in Princeton, NJ. Together they have a daughter, Hattie, 5.
“Full Of Song” is available at a pay-what-you-will price at www.georgekorein.bandcamp.com. There’s a trailer for the album on YouTube. You can find it by entering “George Korein and the Spleen, Full of Song (Trailer).” The video was shot in Pastorius Park.
How would George like to be remembered? “I’d like a documentary to be made about me. It would have clips of my friends saying how I was an unrecognized genius ahead of my time, and it would have clips of my music so the viewer could see that I wasn’t.”
More information at georgekorein.bandcamp.com.