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Peter Broderick Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Young Portland tunesmith gets the social network bug.

Rob Hughes 2012

Anyone familiar with Peter Broderick’s previous two releases on Bella Union – 2008’s Home and its follow-up How They Are, which arrived two year later – may well be expecting more of that gentle singer-songwriterly stuff on this latest work. Instead he’s opted to take a more expansive, experimental tack. A wise move it is, too. For all the hushed delicacy and frequent loveliness of those other records, Broderick's was ultimately a pretty reductive approach, one to test the loyalty of even the most ardent fan come the long term.

Recorded in Berlin with neo-classical composer Nils Frahm, is an interactive piece intended to blur the boundary between album and website. The URL takes you to a page where you can hear each track, accompanied by specific visuals and lyrics, with space underneath to voice your own opinions and ideas. Or, as Broderick puts it, a section of "living liner notes".

Such online interaction extends to the music itself. Eight-minute epic Asleep – a highly atmospheric requiem for a dead friend in which softly-layered voices, piano and what’s listed as "fog drone" build into a sustained throb of sound – was done after he invited contributors via Myspace and Flickr.

All of which may suggest an album overly weighted with conceptual ideas, but Broderick is careful to keep the emphasis on the songs themselves. Long-time admirers will love the fragile acoustics of Blue, where he picks nimbly on guitar, and the feathery quiet of Everything I Know. Yet he really excels on tunes like It Starts Hear, with its programmed beats, synth bass and distinct folk-hop feel. The chorus is cheeky as hell too, Broderick reciting the web address/album title with steady deliberation.

As befits his grounding in soundtrack work and music for contemporary dance, is an impressionistic song suite that makes use of piano, strings, percussive ambience and some electronica to coat the bones of Broderick’s acoustic guitar patterns. Colin, for instance, an ode to a reluctant musician friend, carries the same quiet rapture in sound and invention as Damien Jurado or Iron & Wine. A significant step forwards then, and all just a click away.

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