More of an interesting curio than a proper album, Midi-Bran Piano Rolls is nevertheless rather fascinating for adventurous R. Stevie Moore fans. The album consists entirely of 22 original performances by Moore -- over a third of them from 1976's Phonography album -- fed through a simple MIDI-conversion program by an old friend of Moore's, Seattle-based sound-art composer Otis Fodder of the art-pop group the Bran Flakes. These are not those lame, cheap-sounding MIDI "arrangements" of popular songs that anyone who has spent time on low-tech homemade websites would be familiar with, which consist of the main melody played on a reedy-sounding monophonic synth patch. These conversions bear a striking resemblance to the work of 20th century avant-garde composer Conlon Nancarrow, who spent much of his career laboriously poring over rolls for player pianos, creating often-chaotic waves of sound that sound organic but could never be played by human hands. These conversions sound like Moore's songs given the Nancarrow treatment, in some cases to the point that the original melody is almost lost in the chaos ("Hobbies Galore" is particularly dissonant) but sometimes resulting in delightfully odd reimaginings of familiar tunes. Only diehard R. Stevie Moore fanatics, and those with an interest in the experimental fringes of popular music, will really be interested, but both groups will find much of interest here.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason