Harry James - Buy the Numbers LP (Potions Music)
Released by Potions Music (NYC).
Born in New Jersey and bred in Chicago’s underground music community, Harry James Brenner Jr. has built a practice termed in composites. As a longtime member of ensembles like Killer Whales, Chandeliers, and Songs For Gods, Harry’s work to date has encompassed a wide range of formats and styles, from experimental electronica and punky afro beat to MPC-chopped jams and jazz-inflected post-rock. Though trained as a percussionist, recent years have seen his contributions expand to include the piano and keyboards, allowing him to explore musical composition from synchronous angles: approaching beats from a tonal perspective, highlighting the rhythmic potentials of melody.
This dual vantage serves as the foundation for Buy the Numbers, Harry’s debut solo LP, out now via Potions Music (Queens, NY). Released under the moniker Harry James, this new collection is an exercise in mining the creative possibilities of constraint: fourteen smoky instrumentals, each under three minutes in length, which find Harry limiting his instrumentation to upright piano and percussion, building fluid compositions whose concise arrangements neatly interweave color and cadence while leaving room for epiphanies found through improvisation.
Brenner performed and recorded Buy the Numbers on his own in a series of after-hours sessions at Chicago’s venerable Shape Shoppe recording studio/loft (RIP), constructing his tunes one take at a time. While his methods were strict—no punching in, no manipulation, each song completed in a single night—the resulting works are striking in their handmade intimacy: with the album’s spacious production allowing each element to stand clearly in the mix, Harry’s process offsets careful craft with intuitive feel, creating a vividly honest sonic document.
In keeping with Harry’s diverse resume, Buy the Numbers varies greatly in both mood and points of reference: where upbeat tracks like “The Strut” and “Bars for Freddie” merge cycling melodic patterns with urgent kit work and skittering percussion (think Mulatu Astatke-meets-Jaki Liebezeit), lower-key cuts like “Dapper” and “Alice Runs the High Life” evoke figures ranging from Erik Satie and Mamão Conti to Alice Coltrane and Rashied Ali, unfolding as if the arpeggiated flourishes of Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou were set to Madlib’s subtly off-kilter timing. The result is a crate digger’s dream: a suite of sample-ready grooves that echo the past while remaining unrooted in genre and time, a product of personal vision that leaves itself open to new possibilities.