Between the skittery guitar line that opens the song to the layers of vocals that echo throughout it, “Beast in the Sky” — a new song by Portland, Oregon indie-rock experimenters BRAINSTORM (all caps, all the time) — is catchy without sounding cloying, avant-garde without sounding highfalutin. The song’s subject matter, it turns out, is just as esoteric. “The Beast in the song very loosely refers to Quetzalcoatl, a plumed serpent from Mayan mythology, rumored to have returned from some distant godly domain in a fiery blaze of feathers,” says drummer-keyboardist-vocalist Adam Baz, who characterizes the song as “kind of apocalyptic.” Then he adds, “It’s also just a story laced in abstraction.”
It’s the group’s musical abstractions, though, that make the song work — from the springiness of the drums in the middle section to that unpredictable guitar line. “We were listening to a lot of Colombian cumbia music,” Baz explains. “That kind of informed the middle section of the song, with the call-and-response vocals. Then the more driving guitar riffs at the beginning and end came together later, in an attempt to bracket the song with a more modern dancey feel.” The fact that they were able to tie it all together so perfectly is what makes it a great listen.
BRAINSTORM’s new album, Heat Waves, is due out October 2 via Tender Loving Empire.