After cutting his teeth in the alt-country Boxstep and stretching out stylistically every which way in the duo Vale & Year, David Bernabo is amassing a significant body of solo work. He started out last year with the promising debut Word Roses, and now returns with the six-song McQueen Bear EP.
Bernabo's sound palette is still wide-ranging. He begins with blippy experimental electronic collage on "Cliff, Sandalwood," then moves into the Calvin Johnson-esque folk-stomp of "Make Peace," where the lyrics are somewhat cryptic but still seem heartfelt. The title track is a prog-pop ditty with an odd-time 7/8 pulse, a string section and multi-tracked vocals reminiscent of the Dirty Projectors.
"Proto-Paik" is a careful exercise in bluesy fingerpicking underpinned by an occasionally ominous drone, while "Condo '60" is a subdued free-improv workout: As guests squonk like John Zorn and drone like Phill Niblock, Bernabo plinks out meticulous, clean lines, much like his recently deceased avant-guitar hero, Derek Bailey.
Despite the various sources from which Bernabo draws inspiration, there seems to be a gentle dichotomy emerging, in which he juxtaposes traditional forms against avant-garde backdrops. You can call that "folktronica" (a la Greg Davis), or post-rock or any other term you want to. But the result is a level of sophistication rare in this area, where the vast majority of artists hardly ever get past Radiohead or Ani DiFranco, let alone think of combining the two.
Dave Bernabo's freeform jazz trio, DBL D, performs at Flux 14. 8 p.m. Sat., Apr. 14. Braddock Avenue and Library Street, Braddock. $10 ($8 students/kids under 10 free). www.artsfestival.net/flux