The Mahler Box EP showcases, but can't contain David Bernabo's breadth | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Mahler Box EP showcases, but can't contain David Bernabo's breadth

David Bernabo + Assembly
Mahler Box
Sort Of Records


Emerging as the young composer of choice in Pittsburgh's indie scene, David Bernabo presents an EP with a remix theme to tide us over until his May full-length release. But this shorter offering is just as chock-full of ideas as any of his other projects -- from indie rockers Vale & Year to improv scrabblers DBL D, to the graphic scores he wrote for an art exhibition. Beginning with cartoonish musique concréte that's actually a speedy remix of the second song, Bernabo veers from pole to pole in a veritable sonic smorgasbord.

"The Newest Thing," written during his stint in bluesy band The 9th Ward, is a mellow tune that wouldn't drive any listeners out of Club Café. But the next track, "Out There," is a bit of hip-psych electro-pop, reworked by Birdshit (a.k.a. guitarist Dan Newman, who performs with Assembly as well as heavy rockers Drugdealer). "Happener Magicker," a short string piece where Ben Harris plays all nine violin parts, tastes like a Scelsi or Ligeti work left over from the Kronos repertoire, while "A Compartmented House," a live recording of a chamber work interpreted by Alia Musica, could wind up on any New Music ensemble's season. 

Bernabo can also rock smartly like a Knitting Factory denizen. "Owl at Work" is a bass-heavy, crunchy-clicky rhythmic workout showcasing Assembly drummer Owl Barns (who also drew the disturbingly Monty Python-esque cover art). The title track wraps up the EP with avant-funk-rock referencing Frank Zappa, Adrian Belew and Elliott Sharp and culminating in a Naked City-styled squonkfest with baritone saxophonist Brandon Masterman playing the role of John Zorn. Then everything collapses in another one of those chipmunky sound manipulations. 

It's an exhausting (and exhaustive) listen showcasing the breadth of Bernabo's abilities, yet it's only the tip of the iceberg.

David Bernabo + Assembly with Stephen Tribou & The Vacant Sea, The Harlan Twins and On Deaf Ears. 10 p.m. Sat., Jan 3. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $5. 412-431-4950 or