There are two things people generally say about Dave Bernabo. One is "Dave Bernabo, of Vale and Year," and the other is, "has a new record coming out." (What he generally says when you see him around town is, "Hey, what's up?") So from now on, let's just assume that at any given time, this hyper-prolific local multi-instrumentalist has just completed a new disc, and that his own body of work has probably eclipsed (at least in sheer quantity) that of his old band.
The 12 tracks on Assembly set Bernabo's plaintive voice and minimalist poetry alongside alternately folk- or jazz-inflected guitar, electronic glitches, programmed beats, grooves and groovelessness. A good example of this stylistic collage is "Proto-Pac," a pounding programmed beat animating an acoustic guitar figure reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's "Salisbury Hill," topped with saxophone and raga-jazz guitar noodling.
Bernabo draws on the talents of the local underground scene, including Will Dyar and Boxstep's Eric Graf; there's also bassoon (Jim Kunz) and horns (Keny Marshall). Backing vocals from Kelly Jones help bring out the best in Bernabo's, adding an oddly Fleetwood Mac quality to the second half of the record, including the primo cut, "New Power (Blackfoot)."
On "New Power," Bernabo goes almost blue-eyed soul over an R&B beat, singing "You better lace up if you're tired of feeling lonely, if you're tired of feeling weak," before Jones' backing vocals reply, "It's not as hard as you might think." Whether your thing is free jazz, urban folk or electronic textures, there are many points of entry into this heady Assembly. And hey, if you don't "get" this one, I'm sure the next installment is being mixed down as you read this.
David Bernabo CD Release with The Working Poor and Flotilla Way. 8 p.m. Friday, June 22. ModernFormations, 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. $5. All ages. 412-362-0274 or www.modernformations.com