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New, ambitious sounds arise on Be/Non’s ‘Sunrise/Sunset’ album

Songwriter and musician Brodie Rush and his band, Be/Non, have a new album called “Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic.”
Songwriter and musician Brodie Rush and his band, Be/Non, have a new album called “Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic.” along@kcstar.com

Few things about the latest Be/Non album are brand new, except the grand results.

In 2010, more than a year after he’d released “Mountain of Yeses,” Brodie Rush decided it was time to start on another project and clear the shelves of some songs he’d been sitting on for several years. He also decided he’d take another tack, one different from “Mountain,” his band’s fifth recording, which he made primarily on his own.

“I had this idea that it was going to be more of a hands-off project, and it would kind of make itself,” said Rush, who founded Be/Non in 1996.

“Hands-off” meant turning song parts over to band members and then manipulating what they produced.

“For the first couple of sessions, I might tell them, ‘Hey, we’re going upstairs to play Xbox, you guys play bass and drums and we’ll record it,’ ” he said. “Then I’d cut up whatever they’d done, which was mostly just jamming. So it was kind of weird, some of what they came up with, but it was also really of the moment.”

Those kind of moments pop up in the new album, which is called “Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic.” It’s a diverse collection of songs that tap into a variety of genres: progressive rock, pop, psychedelic rock, synth pop, space rock. It sustains a voice of its own throughout, but its attitude and vibe also evoke comparisons to some eminent and adventurous musicians and songwriters, like David Bowie and Frank Zappa, and prog-rock bands like Yes.

Most of its 12 songs had been hanging around in various stages of completion when Rush started compiling them for “Sunrise/Sunset.” Completing them also meant reacquainting himself with the musicians who had performed on the early versions.

Be/Non has been through several personnel changes, including three drummers. Some of those splits weren’t exactly amicable. But Rush felt it was worth the effort to convene all the musicians who contributed and let them revisit their own parts.

“You don’t realize how much no drummer plays like another,” he said. “If they play (someone else’s) songs, it doesn’t sound right. It’s like they’re masters of their own songs.”

So Rush brought in his current Be/Non mates — Ben Ruth, Josh Enyart and John Huff (who had departed the band for several years) — plus alums Jeremiah James, Ryan Shank and Michael Cochran. The reunions went smoothly, he said.

“I might have a tiff with someone, but I try to come back around and say, ‘It’s all good,’ ” Rush said. “Getting back together could have been a trainwreck, but everyone has been really respectful of each other’s space and time and was on top behavior. It’s all been good.”

“They were all invested in (the album),” said Brenton Cook, owner of Kansas City label Haymaker Records, which is releasing “Sunrise/Sunset” on vinyl. “They were interested in the results and wanted to see that it turned out well.”

Cook said Be/Non is a good fit for a label that looks for bands with a sense of sonic adventure, like Schwervon, Monta at Odds and Jorge Arana Trio.

“They are exactly what I want on the label,” he said. “It’s the sound I’m always looking for: There’s space rock, psych rock, some pop. It challenges you, in a good way. There are lots of layers and changes and some of it’s really dense. It sounds great.”

It’s diverse, too. Some tracks come and go in less than two minutes, like “Tenderfoot,” the proggy instrumental that opens the album, and “Infundibulum,” a groovy, post-punk anthem loaded and larded with keyboards, guitars and drums.

The album’s second-longest track, the spacy and hypnotic “Blow Your Own Mind,” is a first for a Be/Non album. “John wrote it,” Rush said. “It’s the first song on a Be/Non record not written by me in any way.”

One of the album’s standouts is “Orbit,” in which spacy vocals ride a warm rush of keyboards and bracing rhythms from the drums and bass. Rush calls it a “labor of love,” given how much time was invested in it.

“It had been recorded like 11 times, with all kinds of drummers,” he said. “It was never right.”

A breakthrough came as the clock was ticking and it was either finish the song or leave it off the album.

“It’s a simple pop song, really,” Rush said, “it shouldn’t have been that much trouble.”

But during one final attempt to get it right, he took a break from the studio to watch TV. Somebody turned to the ’70s game show “Match Game,” which awakened … something.

“The theme song really had nothing to do with it,” Rush said. “It sounds nothing like that. But I went downstairs and said, ‘Let me play the eight-string bass and Ben, you play keyboards,’ and suddenly everything locked in.”

Sunday night, Be/Non will perform “Orbit” and the rest of “Sunrise/Sunset” at the Scottish Rite Temple, 1330 Linwood Blvd. It will be the super-band version of Be/Non, comprising all those who performed on the album, including all three drummers. The set, which will also include a few songs from “Mountain,” will feature at least one moment when all seven musicians are onstage, Rush said.

The evening will also include a post-concert reception with Cool Guy Foods providing catered small bites.

It should be an apt presentation of a bold, adventurous album from a band celebrating its 20th year. Rush talked breathlessly about the grandeur and history of the Scottish Rite Temple. “I haven’t been able to shut up about it,” he said. “It’s a great environment, and they’ve been incredibly nice to us.”

Be/Non has more projects in the works for 2016, including an EP release of unreleased tracks and a 20th anniversary commemoration of Be/Non on cassette. It may be a year of completing unfinished songs and honoring its past, but as “Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic,” proves, Be/Non always has a way of sounding fresh and futuristic.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

Sunday

Be/Non will celebrate the vinyl release of “Mystic Sunrise/Sunset Magic” Sunday at the Scottish Rite Temple, 1330 Linwood Blvd. The experimental duo Piuleros will open. Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission to the all-ages show is $10. Vinyl copies of “Sunrise/Sunset” will be available for purchase. Cool Guy Foods will provide catered small bites.

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