Nero’s Day at Disneyland offers one of those listening experiences that leaves you feeling like you have no idea what just hit you. An experience that will most likely leave you a little bit afraid, a little bit giddy, and utterly amazed. The solo project of Brock Bousfield (aka Brock Schism), Nero’s Day started as an absurd amalgam of styles — falling somewhere between Venetian Snares, Mr. Bungle, Danny Elfman, and some kind of video-game influenced art punk. His past two releases, Grievances and Dead Malls and Colonists, have found Brock delving heavily into the breakcore elements of the sound he crafted on his debut album Attention Shoppers. And the results have been exceptional.
Grievances and Dead Malls / Colonists
Grievances and Dead Malls, which was released on BinkCrsh Records in 2005 (and is available for free), was the first exclusively instrumental effort by Nero’s Day. The entire EP is a mass of crushing, syncopated drums and synth, releasing you from its ferocity only periodically. Social criticism lies at the heart of Nero’s Day at Disneyland, as the alias suggests, and even without lyrics the music makes you feel as if something is very, very wrong… and that perhaps we’re paying for it every day of our lives.
His latest EP, Colonists, continues where Grievances and Dead Malls left off as Brock explores more chaotic instrumental compositions. His sound has continued to evolve, however, and this release finds Nero’s Day a bit less melodic and even a bit more subdued, as the album integrates sparse, atmospheric noise that ultimately culminates in the tortured ambience of “Shamu Wraith”. A standout track, “Pact With God”, opens with apocalyptic strings and choir — chopped, looped, and overlaid — that transform into a low drone, framing the more familiar menacing synth, blips and beeps. Everything seems to be operating at a noticeably slower tempo for much of the song, but it ultimately builds in both chaos and urgency.
While both of these EPs are great, the first Nero’s Day at Disneyland album may still be my favorite. Attention Shoppers, unlike Brock’s more recent endeavors, is not exclusively instrumental, but rather divided into roughly half vocal and half instrumental tracks. These vocals add not only another layer of pure terror and energy, but also a fuller element of social commentary. Brock deconstructs and attacks a myriad of aspects of American society, but seems to harbor an exceptional distaste for our gratuitous consumer culture and the power structures that support it. He manages to balance poignant criticism with clever humor, however, and on “Brand X” he lays out one of the best moments of the album:
People love their cars,
People love their dogs,
People hate themselves,
It’s the magic of the marketplace.
I’m uncomfortable in my own skin,
Nothing ever goes right, I’m a bad person.
Turns code into feelings,
Wanna crawl up the ceiling,
U-G-L-Y you ain’t got no alibi,
You’re hideous and boring,
So why don’t you just buy something?
Yet, as great as that track is, “The Glass Ceiling Cabaret” is probably my favorite song on the album… certainly of the vocal tracks. His voice is absolutely insane; sounding like it belongs to some cave-dwelling Gollum-like creature, it pierces and screeches. The music is just as chaotic as the vocals, a pulsating fury of drums and keyboards that contains some of his best melodies. This album has become hard to find these days, as the label it was released on has since ceased to exist. I did, however, stumble across a link to an online mail-order that seems to have some copies of it still in stock. I’m not entirely sure if Brock gets any proceeds from these sales, however, as his myspace page clearly labels it as “sold out”. I’ll be sure to update soon once I find out.
UPDATE: Attention Shoppers is available at the above link out of print.